The View From Indiana

BY Gwen Ifill  March 4, 2011 at 1:20 PM EDT


Indiana State Capitol building. Photo via Flickr user Intiaz Rahim.

INDIANAPOLIS | This otherwise unprepossessing state capitol has in recent weeks morphed into one of several hot spots around the nation that are testing what it means to govern and be governed.

I had the chance to see for myself this week at the invitation of WFYI, the public broadcasting outlet in the Hoosier State capital. Lawmakers in the Indiana General Assembly have been locked in a deep freeze over the state budget. The new Republican leadership has been standing fast against state teacher unions, while Democratic lawmakers hold out in a Comfort Suites across the state line in Urbana, Ill.

When I visited on Thursday, Democrats had just begun negotiating with the Republican House leadership on sticking points involving school vouchers and the minimum wage. The bill that caused the walkout in the first place – which would have eliminated right-to-work laws for state workers, had already been withdrawn. Tempers were rising. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels accused the missing of legislating from the hotel hot tub, and remaining Republicans threatened to fine them for each day they remain away.

In recent weeks, we have seen similar scenarios play out in Wisconsin and Ohio as lawmakers duke it out over budgets, collective bargaining rights and spending priorities. I’d been watching mostly from a distance in Washington, and was curious how the story felt on the ground.

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