Key rules to consider ahead of May Special Session
INDIANAPOLIS – The Dalai Lama once advised to know the rules well enough to break them effectively. Heading into a rare special session, the 1975 Schoolhouse Rock tune, “I’m Just a Bill” – with a few tasteful updates – can shed some light on a handful of rules Statehouse Republicans will likely circumvent. The legislative process is designed to encourage deliberation and allow input from the public. Accelerating that process limits debate and public input. To that end, Republicans will likely vote to suspend a rule laid out in the Indiana Constitution mandating a bill be read over three days (Article 4, Section 18).
“I’m Just a Bill”: Special Session edition
Boy: Woof! You sure gotta climb a lot of steps to get to this Capitol Building here in Indianapolis. But I wonder who that sad little scrap of paper is?
I’m just a bill.
Yes, I’m only a bill.
And I’m sitting here on Capitol Avenue.
Well, it’s a long, long journey
To the capital city.
It’s a long, long wait
Indiana Senate rule 56 (a)
56. (a) No standing committee or subcommittee, except the Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure and the Committee on Ethics, shall meet, hear evidence, or take a vote on a bill or resolution assigned to the committee or subcommittee without at least forty-eight (48) hours notice to the public. The notice shall include the following: (1) Committee or subcommittee name. (2) Chairperson. (3) Time, day, date and place of meeting. (4) Number and subject matter of all bills and resolutions to be considered.
While I’m sitting in committee,
Indiana Senate Rule 72 (b)
(b) No bill shall be read a second time until one (1) calendar day after the distribution date printed on the bill.
But I know I’ll be a law someday
At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill.
Boy: Gee, Bill, you certainly have a lot of patience and courage.
Bill: Well I got this far. When I started, I wasn’t even a bill, I was just an idea. Some folks back home decided they wanted a law passed, so they called their local legislator and he said, “You’re right, there oughta be a law.” Then he sat down and wrote me out and introduced me to the General Assembly. And I became a bill, and I’ll remain a bill until they decide to make me a law.
I’m just a bill
Yes I’m only a bill,
And I got as far as Capitol Avenue.
Well, now I’m stuck in committee
Indiana Senate Rule 78
78. Unless the constitutional rule be suspended, no bill shall be called for third reading on the same day it shall have passed to engrossment.
And I’ll sit here and wait
Indiana House Rule 83
83. Suspend Rule Requiring Reading on Three Separate Meeting Days. A motion to suspend the constitutional rule requiring a bill to be read on three separate meeting days must be carried by two-thirds vote of the members of the House. (Constitution, Article 4, Section 18.)
While a few key lawmakers discuss and debate
Whether they should let me be a law.
How I hope and pray that they will,
But today I am still just a bill.
Boy: Listen to those legislators arguing! Is all that discussion and debate about you?
Bill: Yeah, I’m one of the lucky ones. Most bills never even get this far. I hope they decide to report on me favorably, otherwise I may die.
Bill: Yeah, die in committee. Oooh, but it looks like I’m gonna live! Now I go to the House of Representatives, and they vote on me.
Indiana House Rule 142
142. Eligibility. A bill is eligible for its second reading on the second calendar day following distribution to the members.
Boy: If they vote yes, what happens?
Indiana House Rule 146.1
146.1 No bill shall be considered on third reading on the same meeting day that it passed to engrossment except on motion adopted pursuant to Rule 83.
Bill: Then I go to the Senate and the whole thing starts all over again.
Boy: Oh no!
Bill: Oh yes!
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody lamented the fact that a special session – and the rule-bending – wouldn’t be necessary had the Statehouse GOP done their job right in the first place.
“There are no good options and no ways to correct the PR tailspin Statehouse Republicans inflicted on themselves by forcing a $30,000/day special session,” said Zody. “If the issues are important enough to call a special session, Hoosiers would rightly assume they are important enough to debate transparently and within the rules. To hold a special session in just a few hours is watering down the legislative process. It’s a lose-lose.”