(The Center Square) – An Indiana court has ruled that the General Assembly can call a legislative session if the governor declares a statewide emergency, another step in the ongoing debate over power between Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and the GOP-dominated Indiana Legislature.
Marion Superior Court upheld House Bill 1123, passed in the last legislative session after Holcomb was vetoed and the Assembly voted to override.
The new law was born after criticism from the Conservatives over mask warrants and other COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Holcomb by executive order.
“This is a huge victory for the people of Indiana and allows their voices to be heard by their lawmakers when the governor invokes his own emergency powers,” Attorney General Todd Rokita said after Thursday’s ruling .
Holcomb went on to stop the law, saying only the governor can call a special session. In its ruling, the court said that the legislature had the power to schedule its sessions, and that the state’s special sessions clause of the constitution “was never understood to give the governor the power to tell the legislature when it can or cannot meet “.
Rokita, who challenged Holcomb in the 2016 Republican governor’s primary, has filed a lawsuit to stop the governor’s trial, claiming state law gives him the power to block Holcomb’s request to bring a lawsuit and called the governor’s private lawyers an “unauthorized adviser”.
The judge, however, said Rokita could not “unilaterally block” Holcomb from taking action to defend his constitutional powers.
“A sitting governor has sworn to uphold the Indiana Constitution,” the judge wrote.