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Court Hears Arguments On Emergency Powers Law's Constitutionality

Gov. Eric Holcomb, center, sued fellow Republican leaders Sen. Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville), left, and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers), right, over a new emergency powers law. (Brandon Smith/IPB News and courtesy of the governor's office)

It’s now up to Indiana courts to decide whether a new emergency powers law is unconstitutional. Attorneys for Gov. Eric Holcomb and the General Assembly faced off in court Friday to make their arguments.

The law, HEA 1123, allows the legislature to call itself into session during a public emergency – like, for instance, the COVID-19 pandemic. Holcomb sued, arguing the law is a breach of separation of powers.

Attorney Rich Blaiklock, representing Holcomb, said the Indiana Constitution is very clear.

“Well, it doesn’t have the power to call special sessions because the governor has that power, and he alone by the express text," Blaiklock said. "It sort of always comes back to that same proposition.”

Solicitor General Tom Fisher, representing lawmakers, looks at the same part of the Indiana Constitution (Article 4, Section 9) and reads one line down, coming to a different conclusion.

“The legislature has authority over the length and frequency of its sessions," Fisher said. "There is nothing about HEA 1123 that is questionable under that text.”

Marion County Judge Patrick Dietrick said he will try to rule on the case “expeditiously.” Regardless of that outcome, the case will be appealed, likely to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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