JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) – The Indiana House is in recess until Monday, although there hasn't been any business at the Statehouse, because the majority of Democrats fled to Illinois to stall votes on controversial bills.
Rep. Steve Stemler (D-Jeffersonville) was one of three Democrats at the Statehouse this week. Two were there because they had to be for roll call purposes, but Stemler says he was there because of principle.
Stemler is home in Jeffersonville this weekend after a week he says that's been unlike any other since he was first elected in 2006.
Monday night, Stemler missed a caucus meeting, and by Tuesday, everything had changed. "I went up to the floor for the start of the session at 10 o'clock and that's when I found out that they have left," said Stemler.
37 House Democrats were gone, they were found Tuesday night in Urbana, Illinois, an effort to escape votes on what they call radical Republican legislation, but Stemler decided not to join.
"I feel that the people that elected me want me to be present even though we are in the minority," said Stemler.
Stemler says he's received more than 2000 emails and calls of overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. "People are just expressing to me that they appreciate someone that's willing to stand on their commitment and obligations under pressure," said Stemler.
Although just because he's not with his party right now doesn't mean he's abandoning his party. "My actions of staying in Indianapolis and the state capitol is not a reflection on disagreeing or distancing myself from the Democrat party whatsoever, nor is it an endorsement of the Republican agenda," said Stemler.
Stemler expects to take some heat from his fellow Democrats for staying behind. "I haven't had too much from my caucus yet, I anticipate that to come later at some point, and I understand that, and understood that going into this decision that there would be repercussions from it, that's the nature of it," said Stemler.
He says he's ready to get back to work. "It would be nice to have my colleagues back so we can sit down and address the business that is very important to the people of Indiana," said Stemler.
Stemler says he's not sure how long the Democrats will stay in Illinois. He hopes they are back on Monday, and says under the Indiana Constitution, they must come together to pass the state budget at some point before the end of this year's session on April 29th.
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