Legislators break from summer sessions

For the past two summers, lawmakers have returned to the Indiana Statehouse, dusted off their voting machines and went into session, albeit for a day.

In 2013, lawmakers returned to override one of Gov. Mike Pence’s vetoes. Last year, they made technical corrections to a sweeping reform of the state’s criminal code before it took effect.

But in a break of what’s become a bit of a new tradition at the Statehouse, communication officials for House and Senate Republicans confirmed, no such day will occur this summer.

Pence vetoed two bills passed by lawmakers this General Assembly session. One dealt with giving Hoosiers the ability to make online bets for horse racing, a bill Pence said he considered an expansion of gambling. The other dealt with giving agencies the ability to charge a search fee for public records requests that take longer than two hours to find.

On the public records, Pence announced on Twitter he vetoed the bill because “the cost of public records should never be a barrier to the public’s right to know.”

If lawmakers so choose, overriding those vetoes requires a simple majority vote of both chambers.

Technically, lawmakers could move to override Pence’s decisions on the bills during next year’s session, which ceremonially kicks off in November (for General Assembly watchers that’s just a short six months away).

But not returning in the summer shows leadership isn’t in a hurry to act and indicates, at least for now, lawmakers will allow Pence’s decisions to stand.

Though he vetoed online betting, Pence did allow land-based gambling to go into law without his signature. The bill passed both the House and Senate by substantial margins and, in the event of a veto, likely would have garnered more interest for a summer return by lawmakers.

Last year when lawmakers returned to pass the first-ever bill on a technical corrections day, legislative leaders called it an extraordinary circumstance and one the General Assembly should avoid making a regular practice.

The tweaks to the criminal code reforms represented the first time lawmakers passed a bill on a technical corrections day since gaining the ability to do so in 1995.

“We have a system that is working,” House Minority Leader Scott Pelath said last May. “Our jobs as a citizen legislature are becoming extraordinarily complicated. … My general point is that we don’t want to make a habit of technical correction day. The fact we have one is a good thing.”

But at least for the summer of 2015, a day in Indianapolis for the General Assembly isn’t on the schedule.

Chelsea Schneider is a writer for the Evansville Courier & Press. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.