Indiana justices agree to hear governor’s dispute with Legislature

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The Indiana Supreme Court has decided to allow Gov. Eric Holcomb to fast-forward through the appeals process to challenge the Legislature’s attempt to call itself into special session, but as the case comes before the justices, the process will slow down with oral arguments not being heard until April 7, 2022.

A single-page order issued Wednesday in Eric J. Holcomb, Governor of the State of Indiana v. Rodrick Bray, et al., 21S-PL-518, granted the governor’s motion for transfer. However, the justices set a five-month schedule for preparing the trial transcript and briefing from the parties. The order also prohibits extensions of deadlines.

Holcomb had argued for the Supreme Court to hear and rule on the constitutionality of House Enrolled Act 1123 before the Legislature ends its session on March 14, 2022. The law, enacted over the governor’s veto, gives the General Assembly the power to call itself into special session whenever a state of emergency has been declared.

The governor told the Supreme Court that if the General Assembly called itself into a special session after the conclusion of the 2022 regular session, any laws passed could be subject to a constitutional challenge.

In its response supporting transfer to the Supreme Court, the Legislature disputed the governor’s argument that an emergency exists which requires a “speedy determination.”

The new law establishes a process under which legislative leaders can call the General Assembly into an “emergency session.” Holcomb’s lawsuit argues the law violates a state constitutional provision that says only the governor can call the Legislature into a special session after its annual sessions adjourn, which is normally late April in odd-numbered years and mid-March during even-numbered years.

Republican legislators advanced the law following criticism from conservatives over a statewide mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions that Holcomb imposed by executive order.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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