INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana legislators inched towards a possible court fight with Gov. Eric Holcomb Thursday by voting to override his veto and give themselves more authority to intervene during governor-declared emergencies.
The Republican-dominated House voted 59-26 to turn aside Holcomb’s objections, sending the matter to the Senate for a final veto-override vote. If a simple majority of senators approve the override, provisions in the bill will immediately be enacted into law.
The measure would establish a new process under which legislative leaders can call the General Assembly into an emergency session when it isn’t meeting during its annual legislative session. Holcomb and some legal experts have questioned the legality of that process because the state constitution gives the governor — not the Legislature — the authority to call a special session.
Holcomb’s fellow Republicans pushed the bill after months of criticism from some conservatives over the statewide mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions that he imposed by executive order during the public health emergency over the past year.
The bill cleared the Legislature on April 5 as House members voted 64-33. The Senate voted 37-10 in favor of the bill.
Holcomb wrote in his veto letter last week that he considered the bill unconstitutional and warned that any action taken by the Legislature during a self-declared emergency session would face “significant uncertainty.”
“Government should serve as a steady foundation during a time of crisis,” he said in the letter. “Avoidable legal challenges during a state of emergency will only serve to be disruptive to our state.”
Legislative leaders have said they expect a court challenge to the emergency session plan. They’ve maintained that the measure wasn’t “anti-governor” and have praised Holcomb’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which health officials say has killed more than 13,000 people in the state.
Holcomb hasn’t said whether his office would file a lawsuit on the issue if the General Assembly overrides his veto.