Daniels revives agency mistakenly canceled

Gov. Mitch Daniels has signed an order restoring Indiana's largest state agency, the human services department, after it was accidentally eliminated due to a mistake in a new state law.

Daniels signed an executive order late Thursday to maintain the Family and Social Services Administration, which manages Medicaid and other major programs for Indiana's poor, elderly and disabled, the Journal-Gazette of Fort Wayne reported that

Daniels' spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski, said an apparent clerical drafting error in the preparation of the law resulted in the agency being repealed as of June 30.

Senate staffers brought the error to Daniels' attention Thursday, and he quickly signed an executive order continuing the agency and its duties. Jankowski said executive orders were used to establish and run the agency in prior decades before it was put into law.

The executive order will hold until legislators can fix the mistake or the governor can issue an annual order.

The FSSA elimination may be the most extreme example, but it's not the first time this year flaws were found in legislation from the 2011 session.

"We have had some clerical errors that seem to be more than I can recall in the past," conceded House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

For example, a bill establishing wage rates for public construction projects accidentally deleted the minimum threshold for a six-month period, which could cost taxpayers more on small projects.

And numerous education initiatives had errors that had to be fixed in the budget bill before lawmakers left town. A new law giving felons a chance to seal their records also likely needs to be tweaked to make it more consistent.

Bosma said leadership in the House and Senate is "addressing the issue" of the recent mistakes with the Legislative Services Agency, the nonpartisan state agency charged with legal and fiscal review of legislation.

The FSSA mix-up was contained in Senate Bill 331, which was intended to repeal a provision already in law that was to automatically eliminate "sunset" language ending FSSA as of June 30.

The bill that repealed the sunset provision went into effect July 1, so technically, FSSA was eliminated minutes before the bill intended to save it went into effect.

Bosma said the five-week walkout by House Democrats over Republican legislative proposals is partly to blame, creating a compressed time period at the end of session to get things done.

"We lost five weeks, and those were workhorse weeks where we pore over legislation. There was a crunch at the end, so there is little doubt that had an impact," he said.

Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, said it's easy to blame Democrats but said Republicans were simply pushing too much too fast. He said in the last month, lawmakers still had Fridays and weekends off and could have used that time to catch up if leadership felt the General Assembly was behind.

Moses also said no one can blame Legislative Services, because each caucus has staff attorneys and lawmakers who carry the bills, both of whom are responsible for reading legislation to make sure it's correct.

"These are entirely Republican flubs," he said. "They just didn't do a thorough enough job. They were in charge." They were in charge."

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