Legislature considers veto override


Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill that would give the Legislature more oversight and participation in making decisions during statewide emergencies.

The Indiana General Assembly is looking at whether it will try to override that veto.

“I hope that we do,” State Rep. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, said Tuesday. “I would prefer that we take a look at this.”

The vetoed bill is House Enrolled Act 1123. It would create the Legislative State of Emergency Advisory Group that would consult with and advise the governor during emergencies that the Legislative Council determines to have statewide impact. If the governor declares an emergency that has statewide impact, the legislative council could convene an emergency session of the General Assembly. HEA 1123 would also direct that federal stimulus money the state can spend at its discretion be placed in an Economic Stimulus Fund and subject to legislative oversight.

Holcomb vetoed the act Friday. He sent a letter to the House Speaker explaining why.

“The legislation impermissibly attempts to give the General Assembly the ability to call itself into a special session, thereby usurping a power given exclusively to the governor under Article 4, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution,” he wrote in the page-long letter. “As such, it seeks to accomplish that which the Indiana Constitution clearly prohibits.”

Lindauer, who was one of the coauthors of the bill, said he could see the governor’s perspective. “I take the constitution seriously, as we all should,” he said. “To be fair, I think the constitutionality of it is debatable.”

But there is another statement in Article 4 that Lindauer pointed out. “The last sentence in that same section talked about the length and frequency of the sessions of the General Assembly shall be fixed by law. And the General Assembly makes the laws,” he said. “If we are fixing, by law, that we can call ourselves back in, then what takes precedence here?

“I think it’s a fair question, and it’s something that we’ll have to see where it goes.”

Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, believes both chambers will override the veto. He was one of many co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate and said that he was not surprised by the veto. As far as the constitutionality that Holcomb claims, “That can only be determined by the Supreme Court,” Messmer wrote on Tuesday. “There are legal opinions on both sides of the issue.

Lindauer is also hopeful that the Legislature will take up the matter. “I think that we will. But I’ve been around here long enough to know that sometimes what I think is going to happen doesn’t happen,” he said.

He, like Messmer, still supports the bill.

“We have a system of government where there’s checks and balances and there are legislative branches for this reason,” Lindauer said. “I don’t think that anybody believes that the governor shouldn’t have some executive authority to deal with emergencies."

But in the past, statewide emergencies were a lot shorter than the current emergency the state is under because of the COVID-19 virus, Lindauer said.

“As an emergency drags out longer and longer, and then you have a governor spending money, which is specifically a power given to the legislative branch, it becomes more of an issue,” he said. “We need to have the ability to call ourselves back in somehow and take a look at some of those things going on.”

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