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Special legislative session approaches

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

A special legislative session has been called by Gov. Eric Holcomb to complete unfinished business.

Set to start in mid-May, the special session will take a focus on aligning state tax code with recent federal reform, school safety and a decision regarding the takeover of Gary and Muncie school corporations, according to Rep. Kevin Mahan and Senator Andy Zay.

While the Indiana Legislature ended their regular session in March, Mahan said the special session is necessary to complete leftover bills that need immediate attention.

According to Mahan, a bill on rules and regulations for autonomous vehicles is on the table, but said it’s likely to be tabled until the next session due to a lack of urgency.

Mahan said finishing work on these bills wasn’t possible during the regular session due to “politics and timing.”

“If the clock hadn’t struck midnight, we would’ve been able to finish our work, but that didn’t happen for a couple reasons and there’s enough blame to go around,” he said.

Mahan said that while “fair debate” regarding some Republican bills may have run down the clock, some bills unexpectedly appeared on the radar due to timely issues.

He said House Bill 1230, regarding school safety and shooter prevention, came into play after the Florida shooting earlier this year that resulted in the death of 17 high school students and a day of nationwide walkouts in protest of gun violence.

The bill outlines provisions for spotting and reporting cyberbullying, and requires school corporations to maintain information available for parents regarding bullying and harassment.

Zay said a strong focus will also be placed on reaching a conclusion with Muncie School Corporation.

HB 1315, authored by Representative Tim Brown of District 41, explains steps the state can take to assist a school in financial distress.

Former Superintendent of Marion Community Schools, Stephen Edwards, chose Grant County Council President Jim McWhirt to help work on a state-appointed emergency management firm tasked with saving Muncie Community Schools from collapse.

Edwards, long credited with saving Marion Community Schools during his tenure as superintendent between 2009 and 2013, was selected by the state to bring the same administrative expertise to Muncie.

The bill will also assist Gary Community School Corporation in determining how a state-takeover will assist them.

“It is what it is,” Zay said. “(During the regular session) there was a lot of consternation and difference of opinion, and in the eleventh hour we didn’t get it accomplished. In hindsight, it should’ve been done.”

Zay said he’s confident that the authors of bills in question during the special session will come prepared to move things quickly.

Both Zay and Mahan said they expect the session to last a day.

“Making that a reality will depend on how cooperative we are moving forward,” Mahan said.

The representatives said they expect to be called down around Tuesday, May 15 for Technical Corrections Day, a day set aside to revisit passed bills and make necessary corrections.