(INDIANAPOLIS) – Legislators’ call for more say in state emergency declarations now has some
House Majority Leader Matt Lehman’s (R-Berne) bill doesn’t require legislators to vote on an
emergency declaration, but it does require that they have the opportunity. Under current law, a
governor can declare an emergency for up to a month, but can extend it for a month at a time.
Governor Holcomb has renewed his March declaration 10 times. Lehman’s bill would still let a
governor declare a one-month emergency on his own, but he could only extend it if the legislature’s
in session. If it’s not, he’d have to call a special session.
Any two-month span without a special session being called or legislators being in session would
terminate the emergency declaration
Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers)
say they’ve conferred with Holcomb on the bill, and say it’s not a criticism of his handling of the
pandemic. But they say the emergency powers law didn’t anticipate a crisis that lasts as long as the
Indiana’s first coronavirus death was confirmed five days after the General Assembly adjourned for
the year. Legislators didn’t return for another eight months.
A separate bill authored by Representative Jeff Thompson (R-Lizton) would allow legislators to call
themselves back into session if a majority of the House and Senate request it and the speaker and
pro tem approve. Currently, only the governor can call a special session.
Representatives Curt Nisly (R-Milford) and John Jacob (R-Indianapolis), who have refused to wear
masks during House sessions, have authored a resolution to terminate the emergency declaration,
the only current way for the legislature to weigh in. The bill’s been sent to the Rules Committee,
which Lehman chairs.