All five bills on the Republican’s special session agenda were approved by both chambers and signed into law by the governor. Here’s a breakdown of what happened on Monday:
Suspension of the Rules
Senate Roll Call: 39-9
House Roll Call: 68-27
In order for the legislature to hold a one-day special session, the rules in each chamber and a provision in the state constitution had to be suspended before business could be conducted. Suspending those rules can only be done by a 2/3 vote. With Republican supermajorities in both chambers, it wasn’t difficult to meet that threshold to bypass the democratic process.
State Senator David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) was first to speak to the Senate describing the overall pointless nature of the special session and its lack of concern for actual emergencies in Indiana, most notably the issues facing the Department of Child Services. “We have sorely missed an opportunity. There are vulnerable children that are crying out for someone to help save them from fear, from pain and yes for some, even death,” Sen. Niezgodski said.
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House Bill 1230 (ss) – School Safety
Senate Roll Call: 47-1
House Roll Call: 96-1
The school safety proposal allocated an additional $5 million allowing schools to apply for funds to increase safety measures across the state. While Senate Democrats found this amount to be insufficient, considering the major costs for bullet proof doors and other important safety precautions, all but State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) voted in favor of the bill, citing that money could easily be transferred to meet school requests without convening a special session.
Sen. Tallian addressed the Senate at the beginning of the session to explain why she would be voting against all five measures: “I almost didn’t come. I was so distraught by how this whole thing came about,” Sen. Tallian said. “But then I realized that the better way to do my job was to make my protest public. Nobody has made any convincing argument that these bills should be an emergency.”
House Bill 1242 (ss) – State and Local Administration
Senate Roll Call: 41-7
House Roll Call: 74-20
House Bill 1242 (ss) will cause the state to lose an estimated $3.6 million a year in revenue due to the provision that exempts hot mix asphalt plants from remitting sales tax to the state. Senate Democrats opposed this measure due to the significant tax breaks it would provide to large corporations and the lack of emergency that this bill constituted while children in the Department of Child Services are still at risk.
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House Bill 1315 (ss) – School Corporation Financial Management
Senate Roll Call: 34-14
House Roll Call: 63-30
The most controversial bill of the day, and also the bill with the longest amount of discussion from legislators, was the school takeover bill. The Gary School Board will now act as an advisory board and will only be able to meet to discuss local issues with the community four times a year. Additionally, in an absolute unprecedented move, Ball State University will assume control over Muncie Community Schools, completely usurping the locally elected school board. Teachers’ collective bargaining rights will be removed, allowing them to be fired within the first few months of the school year, interrupting children’s educations.
State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary) gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor as community members in opposition to the proposal from both Gary and Muncie watched on from the balcony. Sen. Melton spoke about the lack of concern for his constituents, the missing truth surrounding the story of Gary school’s economic background, the state policies that have contributed to the financial condition of Gary schools and the racial bias that may be implicitly involved in the treatment of Gary from the State of Indiana.
“As a black man in Indiana, race plays a part in my life and every day in my constituents’ lives,” Sen. Melton said. “So when the majority of a minority calls out policies that appear to infringe on our rights, don’t ignore that. Because we have a history that backs that up.”
House Bill 1316 (ss) – Taxes and Higher Education Bonding
Senate Roll Call: 40-8
House Roll Call: 75-22
House Bill 1316 (ss) passed along party lines in the Senate, as Senate Democrats felt the bill had deep flaws that could not be overlooked. Sen. Tallian, Ranking Member on the State Budget Committee, provided the following comments on the Senate floor urging colleagues to vote against the proposal after learning of the negative consequences it would have on the state:
House Bill 1457 (ss) – Technical Corrections
Senate Roll Call: 46-2
House Roll Call: 97-0
This bill simply provided non-substantial changes/corrections to laws passed in the regular 2018 legislative session.