Time left to vote in the 2024 Indiana Primary

By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

March 4, 2024

As quietly as it was slipped into a bill, an amendment that would have barred certain lawyers who had been sanctioned from serving as Indiana attorney general was removed by the Indiana Senate.

Sen. Mike Gaskill, R-Pendleton, had allowed the introduction of the amendment into House Bill 1265 during the Senate Elections Committee hearing in February. The provision prohibited lawyers who had been severely sanctioned by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission within one year of the election from running for attorney general. Specifically, lawyers who had either been disbarred or had their law licenses suspended for at least one year without automatic reinstatement would have been banned from the office.

During the second reading of HB 1265 on the Senate floor on Feb. 27, Gaskill presented a new amendment deleting the provision that referred to the Indiana attorney general’s position. He told the senators his amendment “simply removes language that was added to the bill in committee.”

A voice vote was too close to call, so the senators who supported the amendment and those who opposed it were asked to stand, in turn, to be counted.  The final tally was 39-to-8 in support of Gaskill’s amendment, but no record of who voted yes or no was compiled.

Neither Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita nor Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, author of HB 1265, responded on Monday to a request for comment.

When the Senate committee added the amendment to HB 1265, a spokesperson for Rokita blasted the provision, saying it was “bad for voters and the taxpayers because it takes away their powers at a time when judicial institutions are being weaponized at all levels for political purposes.”

Although Rokita was sanctioned by the disciplinary commission in November, he would not have been barred from running for reelection, because he was given a public reprimand and his license was not impacted. However, Rokita is currently facing a second investigation by the disciplinary commission for his post-reprimand remarks. That might result in another sanction, which, depending on its severity, could have led to him being banned from the 2024 election if the amendment language had remained in place.

The author of the amendment has not been identified. Gaskill did not acknowledge the author in the Senate committee hearing and the Legislative Services Agency declined to reveal the author’s name.

Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and IndyStar.com, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal.

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