In hockey, players are usually substituted on the fly, without a stop in play, and that's how the Indiana House Democrats are swapping-out their members holed-up at the Comfort Suites in Urbana, Illinois in an effort to keep the state legislature from voting on a "right to work" bill that labor unions are protesting.
State Representatives Vanessa Summers (D-Indianapolis) and Terri Austin (D-Anderson) arrived at the hotel early Thursday afternoon. This freed up Rep. Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) and Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) to go home.
Austin's very first order of business after checking in, was lunch."I'm sorry, but I have to go eat something," Austin said as she drove off.
It's not clear which Indiana Democrats got to head back to the Hoosier State, but they have an important job when they get home. The Democratic caucus needs to keep at least two members ready to head to the State House floor in order to make a motion for a "quorum call" and another to second the motion.
Without that parliamentary maneuver, in theory, House Republicans could declare a they have the 67 members on hand necessary to call the chamber to order and begin passing legislation. The GOP outnumbers Democrats in the House, 60-40. Since the walk-out, there have only been three House Democrats available, leaving the chamber four short of enough to open a session.
The next scheduled session of the Indiana House is Monday and there is no indication Democrats will be there.
Minority Leader Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) says, "We go day-by-day."
Bauer has indicated there is a list of labor and education bills Democrats say are an "attack" on middle class Hoosiers, and until the bills are pulled and assurances are made that they will not be added to State Senate legislation, the boycott will go on.
So the grind at the Comfort Suites in Urbana continues, with lawmakers packed into a conference room. The sign on the door reads, "Private Meeting."
"[We're] going over some more bills, amendments, that sort of thing," explained Rep. Scott Reske (D-Pendleton).
By mid-afternoon Thursday, an anonymous gift of four large fruit baskets were delivered to the Hoosier Democrats. So, apples were in plentiful supply.
Clean socks? Not as plentiful.
Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) jokingly confessed, "I'll be to the Dollar Store soon."
Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.