Law restricting emergency powers for governor sign of trend of emerging intra-partisan disagreements


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A new law that went into effect last week could limit how Indiana’s governor responds during a state emergency.

The law, which went into effect on July 1, allows the Indiana General Assembly to call itself into special session during an emergency, giving them more power to intervene in mandates and restrictions the governor puts forth. Holcomb has filed a lawsuit questioning the legality of the law, citing part of Indiana’s constitution that says the governor is the only person allowed to call the legislature into a special session.

“The governor, like governors all across the country, issued mandates for wearing mass regulated how businesses could operate things of that sort,” said Leonard Williams, Professor Emeritus of Political Science for Manchester University. “That’s really what upset the legislature and the trouble is, though, that this on its face is entirely unconstitutional because the Indiana constitution is pretty explicit about saying that the only person who can call the legislature into a special session as the governor.”

Williams said that polarization in government is nothing new, but this battle falls under a recent trend of inter-party disagreements.

“Most of the news that we’ve had over the last couple of decades has been about partisan battles between one branch and the other,” said Williams. “It is unusual for us to have a kind of intra-partisan squabble into a partisan fight, and that seemed especially not only in the passage of these bills over the governor’s veto but in the quarrel over whether the governor can sue to try to stop this bill.”

Attorney General Todd Rokita is one Republican not in the General Assembly that supports the law.

“It really is about the basic structure of how Indiana government supposed to work,” Williams said. “At this point…there’s not going to be another immediate impact of this kind of legislation upon average people. But we never really know when the next one’s coming and so this is why the legislature, I think, thought that this was the appropriate time to throw down the marker and say, you think you’re in charge? We’re in charge too, our view should matter, you should count. By taking this step, passing a law, apparently unconstitutional law, although that’s to be determined, by passing that law to be able to say, whenever there’s this kind of issue, the governor can’t act unilaterally. The governor has to consider the views of the legislature, and by extension, the views of average citizens.”

The lawsuit is currently in the Marion County Courts.

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