Attorney General Curtis Hill today sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb and leaders of the Indiana General Assembly calling for a special legislative session focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In a republican form of government, we do not govern by executive decree,” Attorney General Hill writes in the letter. “We govern by legislation, enforcement, and adjudication carried out by separately elected (and appointed) officials. The Indiana Constitution so divides government functions to prevent the concentration of power and to facilitate public debate.”
The emergency used to justify hurried executive actions has now become a long-term issue that deserves the attention of the people’s representatives, Attorney General Hill adds.
“To be sure,” he writes, “COVID-19 remains a pandemic and a serious public health threat that all should take seriously, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing. But it has been such for nearly six months, which is enough time to re-engage ordinary mechanisms of republican government.”
Governance by executive decree has sent inconsistent and confusing messages to Hoosiers statewide, Attorney General Hill adds.
“Candidly,” he writes, “while Hoosiers at first mostly obeyed the Governor’s emergency orders, as those orders have endured, overreached, mutated, or proven impracticable, many citizens have begun to lose respect for them.”
Among those deserving clearer guidance, Attorney General Hill adds, are Hoosier parents, teachers and schoolchildren.
“The start of a new school year has crystallized the sense of insecurity and general weariness arising from governance by shifting executive decrees,” he writes. “To educate children, our public schools require clarity, consistency and affirmation of a constitutional process governing both finances and operations.”
The state’s co-equal branches of government must engage with one another for the sake of all Hoosiers, Attorney General Hill states.
“Press conferences from the Governor saying one thing, and letters from lawmakers saying another — neither of which has any legal force — produce only more uncertainty and anxiety for schools, students, parents and citizens about what the consequences might be in a few months of the decisions they make today,” he writes.
A special session, he adds, “is the only way to provide the full measure of constitutional government to which Hoosiers are entitled, ensure consistency in the law governing individual conduct and the operation of public functions, afford certainty in public funding for education and other important government missions, and, critically, restore public confidence in governmental leadership and constitutional governance.”
The full letter is attached.