Lawmakers Begin Recommending Changes To 2021 Session For COVID, But Short On Specifics

Aug 18, 2020

A panel of Indiana lawmakers is beginning to recommend changes to the 2021 session to adjust to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit Brandon Smith / IPB News

A panel of Indiana lawmakers is beginning to recommend changes to the 2021 session to adjust to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But some of the initial recommendations made Monday are short on specifics.

One of the committee’s first priorities was how to adjust Organization Day – a technical meeting of the full legislature in mid-November. Typically, it’s for swearing-in lawmakers after the elections and making speeches about the upcoming session.

But this year, it’s likely the General Assembly will make major changes to state law and their rules on Org Day – to, for instance, allow legislators to vote remotely, if necessary.

Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) said it’s important not to rush those changes through, even though any such bills would be passed on that single day.

“I would hope there’d be debates or discussion so that we and the public can understand what we’re doing to the system,” DeLaney said.

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But there’s also the question of how to even conduct Organization Day. Staff estimates say the full Senate can be in its chamber and observe social distancing – but the same might not be true for the House.

Committee co-chair Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne) said that’s why the initial recommendations didn’t include any specific guidance for the chambers on how to conduct Org Day.

“I just think we need to be flexible, to pivot and to change when it comes to session days, when it comes to alternative session days, when it comes to moving the calendar,” Lehman said.

The committee did recommend the Senate impose a 10-bill limit on how many pieces of legislation each lawmaker can file. The House already limits its members to 10 bills during long, budget-writing sessions.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.