Gov Holcomb Fighting Two Bills Meant To Limit Emergency Powers

INDIANAPOLIS — Governor Holcomb’s taking a tougher tone on a pair of bills to limit his emergency powers.

The House has passed a bill allowing legislators to call themselves into special session to address emergency declarations. The Senate will vote Tuesday on its own version.

Holcomb’s consistently declined to comment in detail on specific provisions of the bills, while saying he’s open to discussion of how to give legislators more say in emergencies. But he says he “remains unconvinced” either bill is constitutional as it stands.

Sen. Rodric Bray

Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) says while the constitution says the governor can call a special session, it doesn’t specifically say legislators can’t. And he notes neither bill orders the governor to call a session. Holcomb warns the bills could face a court challenge.

The Senate bill would let the House speaker and Senate president pro tem call a session, while the House bill would give that power to the Legislative Council, which comprises those two legislators plus 14 more.

Holcomb emphasizes the session isn’t even half over, and says there’s plenty of time to discuss the issue further.

The coronavirus pandemic was just beginning when legislators adjourned for the year in March 2020. A six-week lockdown under Holcomb’s emergency declaration began less than two weeks later, and other restrictions have continued ever since. Holcomb says he talked with legislative leaders throughout 2020, and there was no interest in a special session.