The Governor announced that he will call a special session after the General Assembly ended sine die with the clock having run out on some of his priorities. Indiana law provides that, for a short session, “The second regular session of each term of the general assembly shall adjourn sine die not later than March 14 in any even-numbered year.” (IC 2-2.1-1-3). The finish to the short session has been described as “chaotic” as time ran out, the clock struck midnight on March 14, and the session ended by law. This article in the Indy Star by Tony Cook, Kaitlin Lange, and Arika Herron has a great timeline.
In the murky days of yore, there are stories of the General Assembly literally stopping the clock in the chambers and continuing their work. This time, there was an aborted attempt of dubious legal affect to have the Governor sign an order keeping the session going. (As a former employee at the Legislative Services Agency, I cringed at the motion with “adjournment” misspelled and Sen. Long’s name crossed out and replaced with Governor Holcomb’s. I know that someone was ordered to produce that document in extreme haste. We had an unofficial saying, “if you want the document bad, that’s how we’ll give it to you!”)
Tim Swarens has what strikes me as an overly glib column on the supposed incompetency of the General Assembly. The Senate didn’t stay in session long enough! They knocked off early and spent too much time honoring themselves with resolutions! I think this probably ignores the underlying mechanics of the negotiations with respect to the legislation that didn’t get passed. As an initial matter, let me say that I have absolutely no inside knowledge of what happened. I’m just going on the news reports and some experience with negotiations generally. There was plenty of time to get everything done. But, there are some people who simply won’t negotiate in good faith until there is time pressure. They think they’ll get a better deal if they are stubborn and use the ticking clock. It sounds to me like someone miscalculated. Rep. Soliday was singled out for special mention by Sen. Long. Whether it was him particularly or not, it sounds to me like someone in the House was playing games and the early adjournment and lengthy resolution process was the Senate’s way of pushing back. To me, the moral of the story seems to be that you ought to (if at all possible) square away your negotiations earlier in the day, even if it means compromising a little more, and get your legislation locked down before the mad rush at the end.
The Governor’s priorities for the special session are reported to be “a funding boost for school safety, providing Muncie Community School Corporation with a one-time $12 million loan and matching the state’s tax code with the federal tax reform changes.” Those aren’t bad priorities, but our courts have held that the power of the General Assembly to legislate on any subject when convened in special session is not limited by the Constitution. The Governor says he’ll call the special session in mid-May. Per IC 2-2.1-1-4, a special session “shall continue for not more than thirty (30) session days nor more than forty (40) calendar days following the day upon which it is commenced.” It will be up to the General Assembly itself to determine whether to limit itself to the topics suggested by the Governor. I wouldn’t be surprised if the good folks in Americus have to spend the next month or two watching out for Rep. Ellington to see if he tries to slip any more language eviscerating local control over mining into whatever bill might be handy.
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