INDIANAPOLIS – Having adjourned with just days to spare before a national emergency was declared in March, Indiana’s General Assembly avoided a prolonged pandemic hibernation. But now their luck has run out. 

As if the guys and gals who make Indiana’s laws don’t have enough on their plate with the once-in-a-decade combination of writing a biennial budget and redrawing legislative and congressional districts, they now have to contend with a once-in-a-century pandemic that is already shifting where session takes place, could shift when it takes place and will certainly have a considerable impact on what takes place.

To address the changes to daily life that came after last session, House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Rodric Bray in May announced the formation of a bipartisan Legislative Continuity Committee tasked with preparing legislators for the inevitability of social distancing while also laying the groundwork for adjusting to potential future emergency situations. 

But what they have yet to consider is the most obvious solution to all their problems: Taking a page from the playbook of sports.

Sure the Olympics were postponed until next year and March Madness was scrapped altogether. But the NBA and NHL paused, then restarted, their seasons in sanitized bubbles. And Major League Baseball is wrapping up a truncated 60-game season with reduced travel. If they can do it, so can our elected state representatives.

For starters, why not have legislators live in a bubble themselves for four months? From early January to the end of April, pair up Republicans and Democrats and have them bunk together in a gesture of bipartisan camaraderie. Speaker Huston and Democrat Leader Phil GiaQuinta can be roommates. Surely, they would enjoy binging Tiger King. Republican Bray and Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane could become besties. Or how about Jim Lucas and Ed Delaney? What could possibly go wrong?

Although, with lopsided Republican supermajorities in both chambers, the right will have to double up with the left in the House and quadruple up in the Senate. Details, details.

Committee hearings, much like pre-game interviews and post-game press conferences, will be held exclusively via Zoom – but only if everyone uses virtual tropical backgrounds, frequently forgets to unmute their microphone and regularly walks away to silence dogs and kids. What is a society without established norms and rules anyway?

In an effort to make legislators feel as comfortable as possible, floor debates will be spruced up by piping in the cheers and jeers of constituents to simulate an organized rally outside. Walk-up music is optional, but highly encouraged. Representative Ethan Manning strikes me as a “Born in the USA” kind of guy.

Speaking of floor debates, in the spirit of the universal designated hitter, both sides of the aisle may appoint a single individual of their choosing to step up to the podium during tough questioning. Unfortunately, former State Sen. Brandt Hershman is not an option. 

And in an effort to make legislators feel as uncomfortable as possible, cardboard cutouts of lobbyists and members of the statehouse press corps will be placed in the gallery and stationed in the hallways. A special edition Jim Shella cutout honoring the former WISH-TV statehouse reporter will randomly move about the building to strike fear in the hearts of unsuspecting legislators.

To give everyone a little something to help pass the time, a sports betting table will be placed in the corner of each chamber. Prop bets on how many words of a bill’s title and language the reader can recite before the lieutenant governor or speaker dispassionately gavels them to stop, the over/under on speaking time during debates (looking at you, Greg Taylor) and 1000-to-1 odds on the lieutenant governor casting a tie-breaking vote would all be available. Cash only. 

Procedurally, introducing a bill will require a temperature check and a certification that the member has not left their legislative dormitory in 14 days. This includes nights, weekends and all state and federal holidays.

For those lucky enough to have their bill pass committee, before any legislation proceeds to third reading the sponsoring member will be required to sink a three-pointer from their seat. Sheila Klinker shoots and she scores! This isn’t really COVID-19 related, it’s more for entertainment value.

And while social distancing necessitates a limited staff presence in the House and Senate, they will be able to bang trash cans to signal how members should vote from adjacent rooms. 

Finally, pens used in gubernatorial bill signings will be blown on like a Nintendo cartridge, one-hour martinized and Clorox-wiped before being mailed via the U.S. Postal Service to a Hoosier whose address number matches the bill number. This is like the Cubs sending foul balls to the season ticket seat holder nearest the errant ball’s landing spot. I’ve yet to get one, but they assure me it’s something they really do. No matter what happens, this session will be unlike any other. 

Pete Seat is a vice president with Bose Public Affairs Group in Indianapolis.