INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana’s attorney general targeted Governor Eric Holcomb’s attempt on Friday to block a new law that gives state lawmakers more power to intervene in governor-declared public emergencies.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Republican governor challenged the law passed two weeks ago under his veto and gave lawmakers the power to convene the General Assembly for what is known as an “emergency session.”
The governor’s lawsuit argues that the GOP-dominated legislature is “seizing a power conferred solely on the governor under the Indiana Constitution” to invite the legislature to a special session.
Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a lawsuit that his office had sole authority to allow any state agency – including the governor – to file such a lawsuit and that he had not given his consent.
Rokita said in a statement that he considered the legislature’s action to be constitutional.
“This new law does not affect the constitutional power of the governor to convene the general assembly for a special session. It only exercises the constitutional power of the General Assembly to appoint the day for the start of its meetings by law and to fix it by law. the length and frequency of the sessions, ”said Rokita.
Republican lawmakers pushed the bill after many Conservatives criticized the mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions that Holcomb imposed by order of the executive, with the General Assembly not meeting for about nine months after its session ended in 2020.
Rokita, who was a rival to Holcomb in the Republicans nomination for governor in 2016, said in last year’s election campaign he supports curtailing the governor’s emergency powers and avoids defending Holcomb from conservative critics of his coronavirus restrictions.
Holcomb’s lawsuit, filed by private attorneys in a Marion County court, argues that any application of the law would be disruptive and that the action created “uncertainty and confusion about the constitutional powers of the executive and legislative branches.”
The governor’s office said it proceeded without Rokita’s consent because “we believe, in the particular circumstances of this situation, that his consent is unnecessary”.
Rokita’s office also argues that Holcomb’s lawsuit against lawmakers cannot now proceed under state law, as the General Assembly is technically still in session despite having closed its regular business for the year on April 22nd. That’s because lawmakers passed – and Holcomb signed -. a bill that extends the deadline for this year’s legislature from April 29 to November 15, as the receipt of census data is delayed to allow new congressional and legislative electoral districts to be approved.