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Monday, June 23, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "In mad dash by Indiana lawmakers, errors can happen"

In his Sunday column Tom LoBianco reports for the AP on the technical corrections day, held June 17th. See this ILB post from June 13th for background. A quote:

Leaders said last week's meeting was their first time using a "technical corrections day" solely to fix errors since the tool was established by lawmakers in 1995. They used it last year to override Gov. Mike Pence's veto of tax legislation, including a measure that retroactively approved the collection of taxes in Jackson and Pulaski Counties.

But it's not the first time the General Assembly has made a serious mistake.

One of the biggest was when lawmakers accidentally repealed the Family and Social Services Administration, the state's social services agency, in 2011. Lawmakers did not return to fix that problem Instead, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an executive order ensuring the state's largest agency continued operating until lawmakers could fix their error during the 2012 session.

"Some thought that might not be a bad thing, so we didn't rush back here for that," joked House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

But the errors discovered this year, including drafting mistakes that would have reduced some sentences for child sex offenders and made it harder to arrest suspected shoplifters, were too pressing not to fix before they became law on July 1, Bosma said.

The sprawling nature of the legislation, which capped off a years-long rewrite of the state's entire criminal code, was bound to cause at least some mistakes, he said.

"House Bill 1006 (the criminal sentencing overhaul) was one of the most comprehensive and technical rewrites of the entire criminal code our state has ever seen, so there's no surprise there would be some issues in it that were not resolved in accordance with the intent of all of us," Bosma said.

Before they started using the "technical corrections day" as a one-day backstop to perform the procedural steps needed to approve any fixes, lawmakers had the option of coming back — but only if the governor called for it.

The state's legislative leaders say they're not looking to have lawmakers spend more time at the Statehouse than they need to.

"Obviously, the other way to do it is to have a special session, but that opens the door for a lot of other things and possibilities, and there really wasn't a need for that," Long said. "We did the right thing, but we don't want to make a habit of this."

ILB: Another major error in 2011, as reported by Niki Kelly in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, was "A mistake in a bill meant to loosen construction wage requirements in Indiana [that] will force all public works projects – regardless of the cost – to go through a process establishing wage rates." From the 2011 story:
“There was a drafting error. It was not caught, and (the legislative services agency) has apologized to us,” Long said. “It should have been caught.”

Indiana’s Common Construction Wage Act establishes labor rates in construction projects contracted by state and local government.

Supporters say it will ensure that government does not upset the market equilibrium in the private sector, while opponents think it will drive up construction labor costs on public projects.

The intent of the bill was to increase the threshold level at which a project must use a common construction wage to $250,000 starting Jan. 1, then $350,000 starting Jan. 1, 2013.

But an error deleted the threshold for all projects between July 1 and Jan. 1. That means public projects – even those costing less than $150,000 – will need to have a common construction wage. * * *

Lawmakers have day built into their schedule to vote on technical corrections, but they rarely use it. [ILB: I don't recall it ever being used ...]

Last Tuesday was the scheduled date, but the error wasn’t found in time to call all the members back to fix the bill. And Long said it wasn’t worth the expense anyway.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 23, 2014 07:56 AM
Posted to Indiana Government