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GOP takes aim at handful of bills during special session

Indiana lawmakers gaveled a brief special session to a close Monday amid protests from Democrats who said the five bills taken up, including a contentious school takeover measure, didn't warrant the day's estimated $30,000 price tag.

Posted: May 15, 2018 8:41 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers gaveled a brief special session to a close Monday amid protests from Democrats who said the five bills taken up, including a contentious school takeover measure, didn't warrant the day's estimated $30,000 price tag.

GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb announced in March that he would call lawmakers back to the Statehouse for the one-day gathering shortly after bickering majority Republicans blew passed a legal deadline to adjourn without passing a number of bills. At the time, Holcomb said it was important for lawmakers to "finish the people's business."

Once they were back Monday, the GOP got to work voting on legislation that will allow Ball State University to take over Muncie schools, while reducing the authority of the Gary school board. They also approved two bills to adjust the tax code in the wake of a Republican tax overhaul signed into law by President Donald Trump. Another measure sets aside an additional $5 million in funding for school safety — an estimated $7,000 in additional money per school.

Democrats said that when added together, it's an underwhelming package of legislation that could wait for next year's legislative session.

"We don't need to be here at all," said Sen. Karen Tallian, a Portage Democrat.

Republicans, meanwhile, were uncharacteristically reserved. Holcomb signed all five bills without fanfare Monday afternoon.

Republican Senate leader David Long said Republicans finished "business we were unable to complete in March" in an "efficient and smooth" manner. He added that it was now "time to turn the page."

Ever since March's GOP meltdown, Democrats have sought to exploit the mishap. That continued Monday, when they went on the offensive over Republicans' reluctance to consider legislation addressing a growing crisis in the state's child welfare agency.

But the measure that drew the most protest was the Gary and Muncie schools takeover bill by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown, a Crawfordsville Republican.

Both districts were previously overseen by local officials who mismanaged money. Gary is more than $100 million in debt, while Muncie misspent a $10 million bond.

Last year, Republicans passed legislation that led to the appointment of emergency managers for both districts. Brown's bill this year takes it a step further.

"The status quo has to change," Brown said of the legislation. "The community ... is not 100 percent for it, but it's not 100 percent against it."

Opponents — including Democrats — said it sets a precedent that could lead to the state takeover of other schools and would disenfranchise voters who have elected school boards that would be stripped of power.

In Muncie, Ball State would not be obligated to collectively bargain with teachers. The university would also have broad control over who is appointed to the school board, which is currently elected.

In Gary, the elected school board would be reduced to an advisory committee that could only meet a few times a year.

The measure also sets up a system to flag other districts that could be headed for fiscal trouble.

Rep. Charlie Brown, a Gary Democrat, warned others could be next.

"We are setting a very dangerous precedent," Brown said. "Yes, it is Gary now. Yes, it is Muncie now. But it could be you tomorrow."

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1107189

Reported Deaths: 17621
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1446032234
Lake718651243
Allen66280881
Hamilton50567487
St. Joseph49217645
Elkhart39818546
Vanderburgh34458496
Tippecanoe30484274
Johnson27431465
Hendricks26064382
Porter25355386
Madison20880450
Clark20071278
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LaPorte17019261
Howard16577313
Delaware16575299
Monroe16463220
Kosciusko14118166
Hancock12984185
Bartholomew12813190
Warrick12113190
Wayne11987268
Floyd11939226
Grant11845241
Morgan10324191
Boone9770121
Noble9181122
Henry9093167
Marshall9002147
Dearborn8900100
Dubois8778139
Shelby8178129
Cass8099127
Lawrence7989184
DeKalb7693108
Jackson758393
Huntington7548111
Gibson7045118
Montgomery6986123
Harrison6905100
Knox6884115
Steuben661988
Miami6530111
Whitley651460
Putnam638384
Clinton622177
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Jasper607392
Jefferson5760104
Ripley553093
Adams537981
Daviess5042117
Scott485780
Wells4787103
White472869
Greene4661100
Clay460562
Decatur4576110
Jennings445767
Fayette442894
LaGrange423190
Posey405444
Randolph3872107
Washington387056
Fountain370464
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Spencer359247
Starke351574
Owen349677
Sullivan346654
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Carroll291839
Franklin289544
Perry287153
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Parke248530
Pike245544
Blackford219744
Pulaski207559
Newton180652
Brown174250
Crawford168329
Benton165517
Martin152119
Switzerland146812
Warren133916
Union120516
Ohio92113
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