Friday, July 31, 2020

Still Waiting for a Special Session of the Indiana General Assembly

Though a few of us have been calling upon Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb since the spring to call a special session of the Indiana General Assembly, the number of us seems to have been growing, recently.

Those who have only recently begun to advocate the calling of a special session may find useful (or interesting, at least) what I discovered this spring -- particularly those who are beginning to lose their patience with the governor's repeated renewals of his own declaration of a "State of Disaster Emergency" (while the General Assembly, the only authority apart from the governor himself that can terminate a State of Disaster Emergency, has been left impotent and dormant).  If it seems strange to any of them (or, rather, to any of "you", if you are reading this) that Indiana's "Emergency Management and Disaster Law" makes the only check on a governor's emergency powers a concurrent resolution passed by the General Assembly -- a check that can only be used when the Indiana General Assembly is in session, which it usually is not -- that is because it is, in fact, strange.

Also, I found the reason why Indiana's "Emergency Management and Disaster Law" makes the only check on the governor's emergency powers something that can almost never be used: it was neither written by nor for Indiana.  The people who wrote it (in the early 1970s, under a contract with the Nixon Administration) wrote it as a model law for any state which might choose to adopt it (which Indiana's General Assembly did shortly after that).  They did not know that the Indiana General Assembly is only in session for a few months each year; the official commentary published with this "Example State Disaster Act" indicates that they designed that check with the expectation that the legislature of a state that had adopted the act would be in session during the emergency -- just as it should be.

As bad as that is, IC 10-14-3 (the Emergency Management and Disaster Law) is packed with things that are just as bad or even worse.  Becoming acquainted with that chapter ("Chapter 3") this year has been like shining an ultraviolet light around in a motel room or department store.

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