INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana lawmakers gaveled a brief special session to a close Monday amid
protests from Democrats who said the five bills taken up, including a
contentious school takeover measure, didn’t warrant the day’s estimated
$30,000 price tag.
GOP Gov. Eric
Holcomb announced in March that he would call lawmakers back to the
Statehouse for the one-day gathering shortly after bickering majority
Republicans blew passed a legal deadline to adjourn without passing a number
of bills. At the time, Holcomb said it was important for lawmakers to
“finish the people’s business.”
Once they were back
Monday, the GOP got to work voting on legislation that will allow Ball State
University to take over Muncie schools, while reducing the authority of the
Gary school board. They also approved two bills to adjust the tax code in
the wake of a Republican tax overhaul signed into law by President Donald
Trump. Another measure sets aside an additional $5 million in funding for
school safety - an estimated $7,000 in additional money per school.
Democrats said that
when added together, it’s an underwhelming package of legislation that could
wait for next year’s legislative session. “We don’t need to be here at all,”
said Sen. Karen Tallian, a Portage Democrat.
meanwhile, were uncharacteristically reserved. Holcomb signed all five bills
without fanfare Monday afternoon.
leader David Long said Republicans finished “business we were unable to
complete in March” in an “efficient and smooth” manner. He added that it was
now “time to turn the page.”
Ever since March’s
GOP meltdown, Democrats have sought to exploit the mishap. That continued
Monday, when they went on the offensive over Republicans’ reluctance to
consider legislation addressing a growing crisis in the state’s child
But the measure
that drew the most protest was the Gary and Muncie schools takeover bill by
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown, a Crawfordsville
Both districts were
previously overseen by local officials who mismanaged money. Gary is more
than $100 million in debt, while Muncie misspent a $10 million bond.
Republicans passed legislation that led to the appointment of emergency
managers for both districts. Brown’s bill this year takes it a step further.
including Democrats - said it sets a precedent that could lead to the state
takeover of other schools and would disenfranchise voters who have elected
school boards that would be stripped of power.
In Muncie, Ball
State would not be obligated to collectively bargain with teachers.
would also have broad control over who is appointed to the school board,
which is currently elected.
In Gary, the
elected school board would be reduced to an advisory committee that could
only meet a few times a year.
The measure also
sets up a system to flag other districts that could be headed for fiscal
Rep. Charlie Brown,
a Gary Democrat, warned others could be next.
“We are setting a
very dangerous precedent,” Brown said. “Yes, it is Gary now. Yes, it is
Muncie now. But it could be you tomorrow.”