INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb will call the General Assembly back to the Statehouse sometime in May for a special legislative session focused on enacting several measures that died when lawmakers failed to approve them prior to Wednesday's adjournment deadline.
Topping the Republican's agenda is authorizing $5 million for additional school safety spending. Holcomb also wants to give school districts permission to borrow from Indiana's Common School Fund if they want to spend more on building improvements aimed at keeping students safe.
Holcomb also said Indiana's tax record-handling procedures and tax code must be updated to harmonize with recent federal tax changes to ensure that businesses and individuals are not required to keep track of their income and deductions under two different standards.
In addition, he noted the financially imperiled Muncie Community Schools needs approval for a $12 million state loan to cover operating costs over the next several months.
"These items were on their way to passage, and I would have signed them all — but we ran out of time," Holcomb said.
"So this will be an effort to put, in essence, some time back on the clock, get our business done, get here and then get back home and finish the people's business."
When asked why it's worth a special session — estimated to cost between $15,000 and $30,000 per day — to correct tax issues that primarily benefit business, Holcomb said: "This is as important as school safety in my mind, to make sure we're avoiding all the confusion that would ensue."
"Whatever the cost is, is dwarfed by the cost of inaction," he said.
The governor is planning to meet this week with House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, hoping to secure an agreement that these will be the only issues considered during the special session.
Holcomb said even though some of his other priority items, such as autonomous vehicle regulations, got caught up in the end-of-session chaos, he isn't asking for a second shot at passing them, to keep the special session focused.
However, under House and Senate rules any lawmaker is free to file any legislation on any subject during a special session.
It then would be up to legislative leaders to decide whether to allow the measures to advance for votes.
That could produce some interesting proposals, especially from any representative or senator who loses renomination to his or her seat in the May 8 primary election.
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It's also unclear how the still relatively quiet battle to succeed retiring Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, might affect the special session.
Bosma last week named leadership jockeying among Senate Republicans as one reason why lawmakers were unable to vote on all the pending legislation prior to the mandatory midnight adjournment that prevented any further action.
Long attributed the failure to House Republicans, particularly state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, for refusing to agree on compromise proposals until late Wednesday night, effectively killing the measures through inaction.
In any case, both Bosma and Long said they agree with the governor's decision to call a special session, and each vowed to keep it "efficient" and "focused" in the best interest of Hoosiers.
Top Democrats blasted the Republican governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature for failing to get their work done.
"There is absolutely no reason the Republican supermajority couldn't get all of these bills, some of which enjoyed bipartisan support, passed on time," said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.
"It was internal bickering within the Republican caucuses that held everything up until the last minute causing them to run out of time. This is mismanagement at its worst."
House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin, D-Austin, condemned Holcomb's refusal to include any Department of Child Services reforms on his special session agenda.
"Nothing on an agenda for a special session should be more important than saving lives of children. Nothing," Goodin said.
"The governor’s priorities now seem to include covering the butts of Republican legislative leaders for the sorry way the regular session ended last week. What a shame."
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 was in 2002 when lawmakers met for six weeks, amid another economic slump, and produced a package of tax changes that included legalizing dockside gaming at Indiana's riverboat casinos.
In both years, Indiana had a divided government with a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-controlled House.