Indiana senators are holding the first of a series of budget hearings this week despite the absence of House Democrats, most of whom remain in neighboring Illinois in protest of a series of Republican-backed bills that curtail public unions.

Sen. Luke Kenley, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced last week that budget hearings would begin this week.

“The transparent process constituents have come to expect takes time and effort on lawmakers’ part,” he said in a statement. “Everyone must work together to make certain state government is as efficient and effective as possible.”

Lawmakers are required to craft a balanced two-year budget by April 29.

Indiana Democrats left the state on Feb. 22. The budget hearing schedule, along with a $350 daily fine levied on the absent politicians, is meant to pressure the Democrats to return to the capitol.

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