Gov. Eric Holcomb
(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

Holcomb Warns Proposed Emergency-Powers Limits Could Face Legal Challenges

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Governor Holcomb’s taking a tougher tone on a pair of bills to limit his emergency powers.

The House has passed a bill allowing legislators to call themselves into special session to address emergency declarations. The Senate will vote Tuesday on its own version, which would cap any emergency at 60 days unless legislators vote to extend it. The House already rejected a proposed 30-day limit.

Holcomb’s consistently declined to comment in detail on specific provisions of the bills, while saying he’s open to discussion of how to give legislators more say in emergencies. But he says he “remains unconvinced” either bill is constitutional as it stands.

Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) says while the constitution says the governor can call a special session, it doesn’t specifically say legislators can’t. And he notes neither bill orders the governor to call a session. Holcomb warns the bills could face a court challenge.

Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) say House and Senate attorneys believe their chambers’ bills are constitutional.

Holcomb emphasizes the session isn’t even half over, and says there’s plenty of time to discuss the issue further.

The coronavirus pandemic was just beginning when legislators adjourned for the year in March 2020. A six-week lockdown under Holcomb’s emergency declaration began less than two weeks later, and other restrictions have continued ever since. Holcomb says he talked with legislative leaders throughout 2020, and there was no interest in a special session.

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