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Robert Battle

Robert Battle

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana House approved legislation Thursday allowing the East Chicago City Council to temporarily replace jailed Councilman Robert Battle instead of removing him from office.

Senate Bill 146 passed the Republican-controlled chamber 92-0, but still is a long way from becoming state law.

The rules of the Republican-controlled Senate likely do not permit the addition of the councilman replacement process to a measure providing legal immunity to private universities that share student data with the state, since the two subjects are not closely related.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, who helped get the East Chicago provision inserted in the proposal, said he's already looking for other related legislation to move it into during the House-Senate conference committee process.

"I've got to find another home for that," Brown said.

The legislation authorizes a council majority to declare a member "unable to serve" due to incarceration lasting more than 90 days, or physical or mental incapacity.

That finding triggers a meeting of precinct committeemen to appoint a replacement councilman who would serve until the original member says he or she is capable of returning — and a council majority agrees.

Battle, 42, has been held without bond in Porter County Jail since Nov. 17 after pleading not guilty to federal drug and homicide charges tied to the killing of Reimundo Camarillo Jr., 31, on Oct. 12 in East Chicago. His trial is scheduled for late summer.

The City Council has been reluctant to use its power to expel Battle by a two-thirds vote and asked state lawmakers for another option, though last week it still initiated the process of removing Battle from office.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.