INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana’s annual legislative session descended into chaos in its closing
minutes as bickering Republicans who control the House and the Senate blew
past Wednesday’s midnight deadline and adjourned without taking up a number
of key bills.
The GOP has
commanding super majorities in both chambers - holding 70 of 100 House seats
and 41 of 50 Senate seats - but tempers flared in the session’s final week
as they struggled to come to agreement.
scrambled to unsuccessfully ram through bills as the clock neared midnight
and the House floor was awash in a cacophony of noise. GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb
even offered to sign a special order extending the session by an hour,
though it was far from certain if he had the authority to do so.
When it was all
said and done, leaders in the House and Senate pointed blamed at each other
for allowing a handful of tax, gun, technology and school bills to die.
“This day was very
chaotic,” said Republican Senate leader David Long, who singled out GOP Rep.
Ed Soliday, of Valparaiso, for making “things extremely difficult,” while
suggesting he “had a meltdown” during last minute negotiations on several
It was perhaps a
fitting bookend to a session that was already more notable for bills killed
and plans postponed than legislative achievements. From the start,
Republican leaders sought to lower expectations about what would be
accomplished in an election year, freely acknowledging that they didn’t have
an overarching policy objective to accomplish.
complicating factor was a power struggle in the Senate Republican caucus,
brought on by the impending retirement of Long, who plans to step down from
his Fort Wayne seat in November.
things greatly,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, of Indianapolis. Long,
however, insisted it was an “unfair rumor.”
Among the bills
left unfinished were measures that would have boosted school safety funding,
regulated self-driving cars, eliminated handgun license fees and allowed
churchgoers to carry guns to worship services on school grounds.
controversial bill that died would have further diminished the authority of
the Gary school board while allowing Ball State University to take over
Muncie schools. There were also several tax bills that died.
Republicans for wasting time.
“It is total
mismanagement,” said House Minority Leader Terry Goodin, an Austin Democrat.
“They are a group that has complete and total control of the chambers and
they can’t get the work done.”
Over the past few
days Republicans in the House and Senate spent much of their time in closed
doors meeting or celebrating lawmakers who were retiring. What they didn’t
do, though, is get to work passing bills. Tempers flared Tuesday after the
Senate abruptly adjourned mid-afternoon with a stack of bills still to be
“We were here all
day yesterday when our colleague weren’t,” said Bosma, who mocked the Senate
for adjourning early on Tuesday by suggesting they wanted to catch the
“early blue plate special.”
Still, there were
some accomplishments in the final week.
took action Wednesday on measures that would allow the use of
cannabis-derived oil, permit young immigrants called “Dreamers” to obtain
professional licenses and backfill a public school funding shortage.
But the session
also had misfires.
improvements to the state workforce development and job training programs
were supposed to be a dominant issue backed by Holcomb. But instead,
Republicans downsized their ambitions, pushing for a reshuffling of a
governing board overseeing those efforts, while postponing the heavy lifting
for next year.
Earlier in the
session there was an effort to add Indiana to the list of 45 other states
with a hate crimes law, but that foundered amid opposition from
conservatives in the state Senate. And a plan by House Republican leaders to
eliminate a large number of townships also failed to generate support.
did find time to ban the practice of eyeball tattooing and establish the
Say’s Firefly as the state’s official insect.
accomplished one other feat signed into law by Holcomb: eliminating a
prohibition on carryout Sunday alcohol sales that had effectively been in
place since Indiana became a state in 1816.