The Indiana Supreme Court offered some clues recently about why it’s ignored repeated attempts to address the issue
of legislative logrolling, where multiple unrelated changes are stuffed into one massive bill that becomes law.
In a June 29 decision in Andre Peoples v. State of Indiana, No. 79S02-0912-CR-549, the court inserted some language
that could serve as a warning to anyone who might want to challenge non-budget items being inserted into large budget bills
– something that has caused controversy in the past.
Justice Frank Sullivan wrote for the unanimous court and tackled the criminal case, involving legislation about how three
unrelated felonies of any kind could be eligible for enhanced sentences for a habitual offender. The ruling touched on a special
rule enacted during a budget bill conference committee in 2001 that limited the use of certain substance offenses in making
those kinds of enhancements.
“Because the 2001 amendment was contained in the bill enacting the biennial state budget, the change may have reflected
a concern over the fiscal impact of incarcerating drug offenders,” the court wrote, noting that the original law was
written in 1977 and that “It is not surprising that the provisions do not mesh perfectly.”
Those references to logrolling and the language used in describing the legislative action indicates that the court found
no problem with the unrelated statutory language found in the budget bill, and that it even found on its own initiative a
valid reason as to why it may have wended its way in there. Some have interpreted this to mean that any future challenge about
logrolling could be struck down if the court sees a valid reason for the resulting law.
Rehearing on "Finding focus in laws" IL Oct. 28-Nov. 10, 2009