By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis 

1. Statehouse showdown Monday

Monday will be showdown day at the Indiana Statehouse. That's when the Republican super majorities in the House and Senate are set to pass legislation that would allow the Legislative Council to call a special session during public emergencies like we've experienced for the past year during this pandemic. Gov. Eric Holcomb was asked what he would do if such an enrolled act would reached his desk. “I cannot skirt my duty and do something that I believe is unconstitutional,” Holcomb said at his weekly pandemic press conference Wednesday. “So yes, I can answer your question with four letters and it’s V-E-T-O.”

Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. told the Senate Rules Committee under the control of Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray last month that SB 407 would violate the Indiana Supreme Court’s long-standing precedent that it is unconstitutional for one branch of government to subject another branch to its “coercive influence.” Sullivan added, “If the governor’s power to handle emergencies needs to be reduced, do it in a way that the Constitution permits. You have plenty of options in that regard. And if you decide that the Legislature does need power that the Constitution does not now give it, the right way to do that is by a constitutional amendment, not an unconstitutional bill.”

Sen. Bray: “The legislature should have a larger role in this process and so, I think that’s very important. Our caucus thinks so and I think most Hoosiers feel the same.” House Speaker Todd Huston: “I want to be clear – we have a great working relationship, the administration and the two bodies. Again, it’s just a disagreement. We’ll let the courts decide and we’ll have an answer moving forward.”

2. Cig tax hike on the ropes

During the Indiana Chamber's legislative preview conference last November, the four caucus leaders appeared to back a cigarette tax hike. Sen. Bray said, “We want to be very thoughtful on how the money will be spent on the front end,” adding that he wants it to be directed to “improve health standards.” But this week, the Senate Republican's budget did not include a tax hike (the House passed a 50 cent tax increase). Bray told Indiana Public Media, "Obviously it’s a very regressive tax and so we want to be cognizant of that."
 
3. Voucher expansion rolled into budget

As Howey Politics Indiana  predicted a few weeks ago, the controversial voucher expansion HB1005 has been folded into the biennial budget bill HB1001. Senate Education Committee Chairman Jeff Raatz told reporters there’s no need for his committee to hear the bill since the ideas have already received a public hearing, according to the Columbus Republic, revealing HB1005 has been amended into the budget bill after some 170 public school districts oppose the voucher expansion. Bartholomew County School Supt. Jim Roberts: “Instead of providing items for public testimony, they were rolled into the budget bill itself. That makes it much harder to address those items in a public way.”

4. COVID updates

A total of 1,133,956 Hoosiers have been fully vaccinated, while the state has administered at least one dose to 2.79 million Hoosiers, or about 16.4% of the total population. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Republicans to get vaccinated after a recent AP Poll revealed 42% of Republicans wouldn't get the vaccine. "As a Republican man, I wasn’t reluctant to get it when I was eligible and I would encourage everybody to do that,” he said. "The sooner we can get to 75%, to herd immunity, and get our economy up and open, the better." The U.S. Labor Department reported 916,000 jobs were created in March, bringing the U.S. jobless rate down to 6%. The Institute for Supply Management reported that U.S. manufacturing activity jumped from 60.8 to 64.7 in March. The CDC is updating its guidelines for vaccinated individuals, saying they can travel domestically and internationally without a Covid-19 test as long as they wear a mask in public.

5. Dillinger-Holley reunion Saturday


NWI Times Joseph Pete reports: Relatives of John Dillinger and Lake County Sheriff Lillian Holley will be on hand Saturday after the 1933 Ford V8 police car the infamous bank robber stole returns home to Crown Point for the first time in 87 years. Thousands are expected to attend when Holley's historic car returns to Old Sheriff's House and Jail at 226 S. Main St. in Crown Point after departing in a motorcade of Lake County Sheriff's Department police vehicles, including a helicopter, from the Lake County Government Center just up the road at 11 a.m. (CT) Saturday. Dillinger-nephew Travis Thompson: "It's a historic day for the car to be returned to its rightful place. It makes me proud that the property John used is coming back. It's so cool."

Have a great weekend, folks. It's The Atomic!