INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WISH) — Indiana legislators are inching toward a possible court fight with Gov. Eric Holcomb by voting to override his veto and give themselves more authority to intervene during governor-declared emergencies.
The Republican-dominated House and Senate on Thursday easily achieved the simple majorities required to turn aside Holcomb’s objections and enact the provisions of House Bill 1123 into law.
The law establishes a new process for the General Assembly to call itself into a 40-day emergency session to consider legislative action in response to a gubernatorial declaration of a statewide emergency. That change limits a governor’s authority to impose long-lasting emergency restrictions such as mask rules and business closures.
Holcomb and some legal experts have questioned the legality of that process because the state’s constitution gives the governor — not the legislature — the authority to call a special session.
Holcomb had vetoed the bill April 9. In a letter to Indiana Speaker of the House Todd Huston, Holcomb said by giving the General Assembly the ability to call itself into a special session, the bill would usurp “the power given exclusively to the governor under Article 4, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution.”
The Republican governor said he believes the bill violates the separation of powers as it “constitutes a legislative encroachment on the governor’s power.”
For months, some Hoosiers have complained about Holcomb’s coronavirus-related orders.
The new law additionally gives lawmakers more control over federal economic stimulus funds Indiana receives, although legislators are not required to appropriate any of the funds.
Indiana’s latest emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic is set to expire April 30. The state’s mask mandate was changed to an advisory on April 6.