(INDIANAPOLIS) – The legislature’s special session is underway — except it isn’t.
Governor Holcomb called the special session to pass a $225 tax rebate, to help Hoosiers struggling to deal with higher prices. But he and legislative leaders announced last week they’d delay actually gaveling in for 19 days, while Republicans work on a bill to limit abortion.
10 of the 40 Democratic legislators called a statehouse news conference to blast Republicans for not getting to work. Bloomington Senator Shelli Yoder says the tax rebate will already take weeks to reach your pocket, and the delay means it’ll take longer. Yoder says there’s no reason Republicans couldn’t have convened the legislature as scheduled on Wednesday to pass the tax rebate, then return to their deliberations on the shape of the abortion bill. Instead, she charges, Republicans are focused on “how they can best undermine women’s autonomy and liberty” instead of helping Hoosiers make ends meet.
Democrats had been lukewarm about the rebate, arguing instead for a suspension of the gas tax. A fact sheet issued by the House and Senate Democratic caucuses now puts them in support of both. But Indianapolis Representative Cherrish Pryor says the rebate needs to be expanded to cover nearly a million Hoosiers who don’t file a tax return. Many of those residents rely on Social Security or disability payments, and Pryor says they’re the ones who most need the relief the rebate check would provide.
And Anderson Representative Terri Austin says if you fill your gas tank once a week, the taxes will chew up a sixth of the proposed rebate within a month unless the state suspends the tax. Yoder argues the state has collected 33-million dollars more in gas taxes than expected, and can withstand a tax holiday without dipping into the surplus.
Democrats first proposed the gas tax suspension during the regular session in March. Holcomb, House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers), and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R) have all dismissed the idea, arguing up to a quarter of the relief would go to nonresidents driving through the state.
While Democrats are likely to be unanimous or close to it in opposing whatever abortion restrictions eventually emerge, those at the statehouse on Wednesday, including House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne), complain Republicans are drafting their proposal behind closed doors, with no input so far from Democrats on either that bill or the tax rebate.
Although the House and Senate aren’t meeting, Wednesday still starts the clock on the special session’s 40-day time limit. Legislators must adjourn the session by August 15.