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(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

Discussion of Changes to Emergency Powers Law Gets Off to Slow Start

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Legislators’ call for more input when the governor declares a state of emergency will get its first vote in the next two weeks.

The law passed in 1949, at the dawn of the Cold War, gives governors sweeping powers in case of
emergency. House Majority Leader Matt Lehman (R-Berne) says it’s been revised 10 times, most
recently six years ago — but none of those revisions anticipated an emergency like a pandemic
which stretches on for months.

The current law allows an emergency declaration of up to a month, which then can be extended a
month at a time. Lehman’s bill would require legislators be in session after the first extension, and
every other extension after that. If they weren’t in session already, the governor would have to call a
special session. That would have required at least three special sessions last year.

The bill does not require legislators to vote on the emergency declaration, but Lehman says they
should have at least the opportunity to weigh in on giving a governor unfettered powers for that length of time.

There was no testimony at a House Rules Committee hearing on the bill. Chairman Dan Leonard
(R-Huntington) says he expects a committee vote next week or the week after, and says there are
likely to be revisions to the bill first Governor Holcomb warned last week he has concerns about
wording he says doesn’t appear to match what he’s discussed with House and Senate leaders.

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