WIBC has posted Judge Dreyer’s decision (pdf) requiring the House Democrats to be paid back the withheld walkout fines and enjoining the State Auditor and Clerk of the House of Representatives from further withholding such fines. (See a previous post on the matter here.)
The question at issue is not whether the House Democrats can be fined; Judge Dreyer has held that that’s not for the courts to decide — the Indiana legislature is to resolve such matters internally. Rather, it’s how the money is allowed to be collected. The issue of collection involves not just the House or the Senate, but the State of Indiana as a whole — because it’s not the House cutting the checks, it’s the State Auditor. At that point, you’re beyond an internal legislative matter and into something the courts can decide.
The court found that the House Democrats are State employees for the purpose of compensation. The are paid a salary, they are members of the state insurance and pension plans, and they get W-2s from the State. It also found that, under the Wage Payment Statute, the House Democrats are employees, that the Wage Payment Statute did not exclude government officials, and that IC 22-2-6-2 precludes the State from withholding the House Democrats’ wages. The court also referenced IC 22-2-8 which says, “It is unlawful for any employer to assess a fine on any pretext against any employee and retain the same or any part thereof from his wages.”
The trial court also found that such a withholding was a violation of due process. I’m not sure I agree with that. Seems like the discussion on that goes more toward the imposition of the fine in the first place and beyond the question of collection.