By Abrahm Hurt
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Democrats are worried that the May 14 special legislative session is undemocratic by not involving Hoosier voices.
“My fundamental problem is this is being handled in an amazingly undemocratic fashion,” said state Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis. “How can we consider legislation without testimony, without committee hearings and without the possibility of an amendment?”
Lawmakers will meet at the Statehouse on May 14 for a special one-day session to act on bills that legislators failed to pass before the end of the regular session. Republican leaders in the House and Senate, who hold supermajorities, have said they want to limit the work to a single day where they will tackle tax and education bills.
While the Democrats have expressed their concern, Indiana Republicans have said the bills already had a public testimony, gone through committees and been amended. They have said the bills will be exactly the way they looked the night of March 14 when the regular session ended.
“With the exception of a technical corrections bill recommended for adoption by the Legislative Services Agency, the four other bills will be eligible for a final vote in the same form they were in on the last night,” House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said. “This process will complete our work just as it should have been with the limited expense to the taxpayer.”
The estimated cost for the special session is $30,000 per day with legislators receiving a daily expense stipend of $173 as determined by the federal government.
The proposed legislation, motions and fiscal notes for the bills being considered were released to the public April 30.
“We are delivering on our pledge of full transparency and openness with regard to the special session,” Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that this will help facilitate an efficient process when we gather on May 14 to complete our work on these important issues.”
The four pieces of legislation are:
- House Bill 1230 would provide $5 million for school safety that Holcomb had requested during the session. The bill would allow school corporations to obtain funding advances of up to $500,000 for school security equipment and capital purchases, but total advances are not allowed to exceed $35 million.
- Senate Bill 242––now House Bill 1242 because it will start in the House––is a tax bill which would have exempted trucks, pavers, vehicle parts and fuel purchased by a hot mix asphalt company from Indiana’s 7 percent sales tax.
- House Bill 1315 would establish a process to single out struggling schools. It would allow the state to take over the Gary and Muncie community schools, and it authorizes a $12 million loan to the Muncie school corporations.
- House Bill 1316 will update the state’s tax code to comply with recent federal changes.
House Bill 1457 will make technical corrections to legislation passed this year.
Delaney said the legislation regarding the Gary and Muncie schools is punitive, not legislative.
“Every school district in the state ought to be concerned that if they somehow offend the supermajority either because of real economic problems or because of mismanagement that their school district will be brought before the General Assembly and subjected to punishment,” he said.
Rep. Melanie Wright, D-Yorktown, said until it’s understood why these school corporations are struggling, the problem will continue. She said the legislature needs to look at how property tax caps, changes to the complexity index and school choice have affected school corporations.
“We’ve never really looked at the impact of those three things separately, let alone how they interact,” Wright said. “I think part of that is playing out in some of our school systems, and I think until we look at the larger vision of why is this problem happening, I think we’re bound to see it repeating.”
Lawmakers will meet on Monday to review the agenda for the special session.
FOOTNOTE: Abrahm Hurt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.