Indiana lawmakers send emergency powers bill to governor’s desk

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – A controversial bill allowing Indiana lawmakers to call themselves into session is on its way to the governor’s desk.

Governor Eric Holcomb said he will not sign the legislation due to concerns over it being unconstitutional.

Abdul-Hakeem Shabazz, an attorney and publisher of IndyPolitics.org, said it will likely end up in court.

“It is very rare that you have the same party suing each other in court over constitutionality issues,” said Shabazz.

House Bill 1123 allows Indiana lawmakers to call themselves into session during a statewide public emergency. The current state constitution only grants that power to the governor, but it doesn’t say lawmakers can’t.

“Lawmakers say, ‘Hey, the constitution is silent. So, if it’s silent, that means we can do it because it doesn’t say we can’t,’ which is a bit sketchy,” said Shabazz.

Shabazz agrees with the governor that this is unconstitutional. Holcomb said he supports parts of the bill, but when asked whether he would sign it, Holcomb said he could answer that in four letters.

“Veto,” said Holcomb.

The governor understands lawmakers’ desire to guarantee more involvement in the process. The bill also grants them the ability to oversee spending of federal dollars during an emergency.

“It should be expected that we work together,” said Holcomb.

He said they’ve been doing that. Some lawmakers disagree.

Republican leadership said it was their choice not to call a special session during the pandemic, but it’s the future they’re worried about.

“It’s certainly possible that in future years unfortunately, the governor, the speaker, and the Senate leader aren’t all on the same page, and this just allows the legislative body to be engaged,” said Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston.

He said a veto override is likely, and so is a lawsuit.

“At some point, yes,” said Huston. “I think the courts will have a chance if someone wants to bring the constitutional concern, they’ll do that.”

It is unclear when the governor will veto the bill.

The Indiana General Assembly was originally set to end session on April 29 but has planned to end a week early.

Huston said he would hope to vote to override a veto before then.

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