INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb says he will call state lawmakers back for a
special session in May after bickering Republicans who dominate the
Statehouse failed to take action on several key bills before last week’s
“We need to finish
the peoples’ business,” the Republican governor said at a news conference
Monday. “In essence, what we will be doing is putting some time back on the
It’s unclear how
long the special session will last, though Holcomb indicated it will come
after the May 8 primary and that he hopes it will be short.
Republicans over the announcement.
“It was internal
bickering within the Republican caucuses that held everything up until the
last minute causing them to run out of time,” said Senate Minority Leader
Tim Lanane, of Anderson. “This is mismanagement at its worst."
The GOP has
commanding super majorities in both chambers - holding 70 of 100 House seats
and 41 of 50 Senate seats - but tempers erupted in the session’s final week
as they struggled to come to terms.
much of that honoring retiring members, in closed-door meetings, or arguing
over the fine details of some of the bills that got hung up.
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 and on school grounds.
Holcomb says he
wants the special session - which estimates suggest could cost taxpayers
about $30,000 a day - to focus narrowly on a couple of tax related bills and
efforts to pump $5 million into statewide school safety improvements.
That means he’s
giving up on the self-driving car bill he championed. He also said that he
was not in favor of lawmakers bringing back another bill that died, which
would have allowed Ball State University to take over Muncie schools.
“I am encouraging
us to stay focused on what is urgent,” Holcomb said. “I am trying to lead by
example with an agenda item that I was unsuccessful getting across the
finish line, and I am not putting on our to-do list for a special session.
It can wait, as can other bills.”
House Speaker Brian Bosma and GOP Senate leader David Long said they support
Holcomb’s decision to call the special session. Last week, however, they
each pointed blame at each other for failing to get their work done by
Wednesday’s midnight deadline.
But Democrats were
incensed that Holcomb effectively ruled out taking up legislation to address
the state’s beleaguered child welfare agency, which advocates say is
underfunded, overworked and struggling to handle a surge of child welfare
cases brought on by the opioid epidemic.
“All along, Indiana
House Democrats have said there is only one reason to have a special session
this year: to fix the mess that is the Department of Child Services.” said
House Minority Leader Terry Goodin, a Democrat from Austin. “It should be
everyone’s priority to protect the lives of at-risk children. During the
session, the Republicans chose to do nothing, hiding under the guise of
waiting for a private consultant to tell us what we already know: there’s a
lot that’s wrong with DCS.”
Holcomb said any
DCS-related issues that arise from a report to be issued in June by a
consultant “will be able to wait until 2019.”
During the news
conference, Holcomb also addressed for the first time an emergency order he
attempted to issue during the final minutes of the regular session, which
would have extended the adjournment time by an hour. Democrats objected to
the move, arguing he had no such legal authority to do so and Republicans
ultimately decided to abandon the effort.
Holcomb said he ran
from his office to the Senate to issue the order at their request because
“in short, I was trying to help.”
But he wouldn’t say
if he believes that he actually had the legal authority to issue the order.
“They did,” he said
of the Senate. “They still believe that we did have the authority, but for
one reason or another they withdrew from that option.”