INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb is calling Hoosier lawmakers back to the Statehouse May 14 for a special session focused on approving proposals that last month were on the verge of passing the House and Senate when the regular legislative session expired.
That includes House Bill 1315, which would further reduce the role of the already powerless elected trustees of the Gary Community School Corp. by making them merely an advisory board to the district's state-appointed emergency manager and limiting public board meetings.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, announced Friday they intend to pick up at the spot where things stood at midnight March 14 when the Legislature's 10-week annual meeting was required by law to adjourn.
The chamber leaders said that means four pending measures will be eligible for final approval during the special session, along with one new proposal containing 23 Indiana Code technical corrections that the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency has said are needed.
Besides the Gary schools legislation, the other proposals are Senate Bill 242 and House Bill 1316, which generally harmonize Indiana tax law with recently enacted federal tax changes, and House Bill 1230, which increases funding for school safety improvements.
"With the exception of two small additions requested by the Department of Revenue to House Bill 1316, they will be precisely the same as they looked at the close of business on March 14," Long said.
"No other bills are going to be considered."
Bosma and Long both said their goal is for the General Assembly to meet in special session for a single day and then adjourn again until after the November elections when new and returning legislators will be sworn-in on Organization Day for the 2019 regular session.
To pass a law in one day requires a two-thirds vote to suspend a provision of the Indiana Constitution that mandates a legislative proposal be considered on three separate days, as well as House and Senate rules pertaining to committee review and amendments.
Bosma said to ensure transparency, the language of each proposal eligible for action during the special session will be posted on the General Assembly website April 30.
The Legislative Council, a Republican-dominated panel of House and Senate leaders, then will meet May 7 to, in effect, provide committee review for each of the five measures, consider and possibly adopt amendments, as well as hear public testimony.
Under the plan, lawmakers only would vote during the special session to waive their usual rules and approve or reject each of the five proposals. Floor amendments would not be allowed.
Bosma admitted such a procedure never before has been used to move legislation in Indiana.
But, he insisted, it is "open, transparent and cost-effective for taxpayers."
Long also noted that every measure up for consideration was extensively reviewed and debated by lawmakers during the regular session. He said the special session vote only is finishing what didn't get done in March.
Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, condemned the proposed procedure as "undemocratic," "elitism" and "an abuse of power."
He said Holcomb promised that House Bill 1315 only would be revived to provide an emergency loan to Muncie Community Schools, not to hand over governance of that district to Ball State University and also impact Gary schools.
"I do not support the state using its power to dismantle a locally-elected school board and disenfranchise the voters in my district," Lanane said.
"I am dismayed they ask that this crucial bill affecting both Muncie and Gary be passed in a no-rules, no-Constitution, no-amendment, one-day rubber-stamp session."
House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin, D-Austin, also took issue with the school takeover legislation, as well as the fact that lawmakers will not be permitted to enact meaningful changes to it.
"This is not a thing that can be idly approved without full consideration, because you are talking about the latest step to take the education of our children out of the hands of local school boards and parents and placing it under the control of Big Brother," Goodin said.
Holcomb's list of special session priorities includes a $12 million loan for Muncie Community Schools, but nothing relating to the Gary Community School Corp.
Nevertheless, Long and Bosma said they've informed the governor of their plans, and Holcomb enthusiastically endorsed their intention to have the Legislature expeditiously complete its work.
"I'm calling lawmakers back to take action on the critical issues of school safety and federal tax conformity," Holcomb said. "And, with sharp focus, I’m confident they can finish this work in a single day."
This will be the first Indiana special session since 2009 when lawmakers came back for nearly three weeks in June to negotiate a state budget amid a property tax crisis and national economic downturn.
The most recent special session in a non-budget year, similar to this year, was 2002. The last time Indiana saw a special session when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and governor's office was 1987.