INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence rejected Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's pleas for a veto and instead signed legislation Monday terminating the city's 1999 civil lawsuit against alleged participants in illegal gun sales.
Senate Enrolled Act 98 retroactively prohibits Gary from filing its court case seeking damages from various gun manufacturers and retailers.
In what must be one of the oddest effective dates in legislative history, the new law officially took effect Aug. 26, 1999, when Pence, the Republican who signed it, was a talk radio host and two-time failed congressional candidate still more than a decade away from becoming governor.
Freeman-Wilson, a Democrat who in 1999 was one year from becoming Indiana's attorney general, said such use of a retroactive law to interfere in a pending court case is unprecedented and violates the separation-of-powers between branches of government.
Supporters of the measure claim ending the lawsuit, which has idled in court for the past six years, will improve the state's perception as gun-friendly and perhaps lure gun manufacturers to locate in Indiana.
Pence also signed a forward-looking measure Monday, authorizing the Porter County Council and county commissioners to create a foundation for investing the $160 million earned from the sale of the former county hospital more aggressively than permitted under current law, subject to additional oversight.
Specifically, the foundation must hire a financial adviser, follow prudent investor practices, limit equity investments to 55 percent of the portfolio, undergo an annual audit and regularly consult with three local bankers not actively investing foundation funds.
House Enrolled Act 1281 was sponsored by state Reps. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, and Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point; and state Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.