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Supreme Court sides with Holcomb in dispute over legislature’s authority to call itself into session

In a ruling released Friday, the Indiana Supreme Court came down in support of Gov. Eric Holcomb in a constitutional dispute over whether the Indiana General Assembly has the authority to call itself into special session.

All five justices on the high court supported the ruling in support of Holcomb’s 2021 lawsuit against the legislature and its leaders over the constitutionality of House Enrolled Act 1123, which was passed by both chambers of the General Assembly earlier that year. Holcomb vetoed the legislation but his veto was overridden, leading to the lawsuit.

The bill would have given the legislature the power to call a special session after the governor declares a state of emergency, as Holcomb did in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The ruling also sided with Holcomb over Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office, which had gone to court to stop the lawsuit on grounds that only the attorney general—rather than the private attorneys whom the governor’s office employed—could represent the state in such disputes.

“Simply put, absent a constitutional amendment … the General Assembly cannot do what HEA 1123 permits,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote in the Friday opinion. “While our Constitution authorizes only the Governor to call a special session, the General Assembly can set additional sessions—but only by fixing their length and frequency in a law passed during a legislative session and presented to the Governor.”