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In mad dash by state lawmakers, errors can happen

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When Indiana's legislative leaders called the General Assembly back for one day last week, it was because they had discovered a handful of mistakes made earlier this year that just couldn't wait until the next session to be fixed.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said that part-time legislatures working with limited time and resources are going to have mistakes occasionally.

"We're a citizen legislature and we have a short session compared to others," Long said. "Now, we get a lot done in Indiana, but we work hard and we work quickly. And there oftentimes is an avalanche of legislation coming in at the end. And it really overwhelms LSA [Legislative Services Agency] and the Legislature. ... Once in a while there's a mistake. But typically between the proofreading that goes on at the House and the Senate and the LSA, we don't miss very much."

Leaders said last week's meeting was their first time using a "technical corrections day" solely to fix errors since the tool was established by lawmakers in 1995. They used it last year to override Gov. Mike Pence's veto of tax legislation, including a measure that retroactively approved the collection of taxes in Jackson and Pulaski Counties.

But it's not the first time the General Assembly has made a serious mistake.

One of the biggest was when lawmakers accidentally repealed the Family and Social Services Administration, the state's social services agency, in 2011. Lawmakers did not return to fix that problem Instead, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an executive order ensuring the state's largest agency continued operating until lawmakers could fix their error during the 2012 session.

"Some thought that might not be a bad thing, so we didn't rush back here for that," joked House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

But the errors discovered this year, including drafting mistakes that would have reduced some sentences for child sex offenders and made it harder to arrest suspected shoplifters, were too pressing not to fix before they became law on July 1, Bosma said.

The sprawling nature of the legislation, which capped off a years-long rewrite of the state's entire criminal code, was bound to cause at least some mistakes, he said.

"House Bill 1006 (the criminal sentencing overhaul) was one of the most comprehensive and technical rewrites of the entire criminal code our state has ever seen, so there's no surprise there would be some issues in it that were not resolved in accordance with the intent of all of us," Bosma said.

Before they started using the "technical corrections day" as a one-day backstop to perform the procedural steps needed to approve any fixes, lawmakers had the option of coming back—but only if the governor called for it.

The state's legislative leaders say they're not looking to have lawmakers spend more time at the Statehouse than they need to.

"Obviously, the other way to do it is to have a special session, but that opens the door for a lot of other things and possibilities, and there really wasn't a need for that," Long said. "We did the right thing, but we don't want to make a habit of this."
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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