From Eric Berman at WIBC
Governor Holcomb has won his lawsuit over legislators’ attempt to call their own special sessions.
A unanimous Indiana Supreme Court says only the governor can call a special session once legislators have adjourned. Holcomb sued last year after legislators passed a law over his veto, deputizing the 16-member Legislative Council to reconvene the House and Senate to review a governor’s emergency declaration.
And a law passed last year extended the General Assembly’s April adjournment date that year to November, to accommodate the late delivery of census data needed to draw new congressional districts.
But the court says the emergency-session law attempts an end run around the normal process of passing a bill. It would have allowed the Legislative Council to instead pass a resolution, not subject to a governor’s veto, while legislators are out of session. The court says that process would require a constitutional amendment to be legal.
The court also rejected procedural arguments raised by Attorney General Todd Rokita, who contended the governor doesn’t have the authority to file suit without the attorney general’s approval. The justices say the governor can’t go around the attorney general to sue on behalf of state agencies, but has full authority over his own office. Rush says to rule otherwise would effectively give an attorney general veto power over a governor’s decision to go to court.
The law grew out of legislators’ frustration at the COVID-19 health emergency. Infections exploded just days after the General Assembly adjourned for the year in March 2020. When legislators did reconvene, they declined to exercise their authority to terminate Holcomb’s emergency declaration, though more than 30 House Republicans signed on to a resolution to do so. Holcomb ended the emergency himself in March of this year.
In a brief written statement responding to the ruling, House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said, “I respect the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinion on House Enrolled Act 1123, and we’ll consider all options moving forward.”
Following the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling today, Governor Eric Holcomb issued this statement:
“From the beginning, this case presented important procedural, statutory and Constitutional questions that only the courts could answer. Today, the Indiana Supreme Court has provided clarity and finality on these important issues. I appreciate the patience and humility Speaker Houston and Senator Bray have shown throughout the entire process, of which I always sought to match. With this critical matter resolved, we’ll continue focusing on building a prosperous state full of opportunity for all.”
Attorney General Todd Rokita issued the following statement…
“The Indiana Supreme Court provided answers to several areas of the law that the governor questioned. But in doing so, the court became a legislature today by overriding the intent of those who are directly elected by the people. The good news is the General Assembly can correct this. Fortunately, the court rejected the governor’s claim that the legislature could meet only once a year unless the governor — and only the governor — calls them into session. We will continue to fight for Hoosiers and to protect their liberties.”