Governor announces special legislative session to begin May 14

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Friday that he is calling lawmakers back to the Statehouse for a special session that will begin May 14, aimed at completing a handful of Republican priorities that died in March during a chaotic finish to this year's regular session.

Holcomb said he wants lawmakers to focus on passing tax measures, a school safety funding bill and legislation that would help the struggling Muncie schools district.

"I'm calling lawmakers back to take action on the critical issues of school safety and federal tax conformity," the Republican governor said in a statement. "And, with sharp focus, I'm confident they can finish this work in a single day."

A handful of bills were left undecided in the final hours of this year's regular legislative session.

The governor said his "to-do items" were included in the final versions of Senate Bill 242, House Bill 1230, HB 1315 and HB 1316.

The date from the governor is the same one that Bosma predicted earlier this week. He said he's confident the session could be wrapped up in one day.

House Bill 1315, in particular, elicited howls of complaint from Democrats during the regular session because it called for giving Ball State University control of Muncie schools. They argued the GOP-dominated Legislature was further meddling in local school affairs without giving time for a takeover plan approved just last year to produce results.

Holcomb has called for a more narrowly tailored version of the bill, which would give Muncie schools a $12 million loan. But it's far from certain that GOP lawmakers will go along with that, notably powerful House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown, who made the measure a priority.

His bill would have further reduced the authority of the Gary school board. Both districts were previously overseen by local officials who mismanaged money. The measure would also have provided a framework for dealing with other school districts with financial troubles.

Holcomb's announcement comes ahead of a planned Friday morning news conference by House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate leader David Long during which they will detail their plans for the special session.

Republicans control every level of state government, including the Legislature, where they do not need Democratic voters to pass legislation. Still, in the final days of this year's session, Republicans failed to come to terms on some bills, blowing past a statutory deadline to adjourn.

One major issue Republicans won't be addressing during the special session: widely reported problems with the state's child welfare agency.

Advocates say the state's beleaguered Department of Child Services is underfunded, overworked and struggling to handle a surge of child welfare cases brought on by the opioid epidemic.

Holcomb previously said any DCS-related issues that arise from a report to be issued in June by a consultant "will be able to wait until 2019."

In December, the agency's well-respected former director resigned, penning a blistering resignation letter that accused Holcomb's administration of service cuts and management changes that "all but ensure children will die."

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