Indiana housing advocates say they are worried the GOP-controlled Indiana General Assembly will override a veto made last year by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb of a controversial landlord-tenant bill and are raising alarms to try to stop it.
Senate Enrolled Act 148 would have prevented all local governments from regulating any aspect of landlord-tenant relationships and would have blocked tenant protections that the city of Indianapolis had put in place last spring.
The legislation passed 29-19 in the Senate and 64-32 in the House in March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state.
But Holcomb vetoed it later that month, saying he thought the language was “overly broad.”
“While I understand the bill was intended to create uniformity between state and local law governing the relationship between landlords and tenants, I believe this is not the right time for such language to become law,” Holcomb wrote in a letter explaining the veto.
The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition, a group formed last year to advocate for housing security, shared concerns on Tuesday that lawmakers are considering overriding Holcomb’s veto this session, which started Monday.
Overriding the veto would require a simple majority in each chamber. If that occurred, the law would take effect immediately.
Jessica Love, executive director of Prosperity Indiana, said during events hosted by her organization, that lawmakers acknowledged that there is an active effort to override the veto.
“We are trying to proactively respond to some of what we heard,” Love said.
It’s unclear whether House or Senate leadership has an appetite to override the veto.
“Our caucus has not yet discussed or made a decision with regard to whether there will be support to override this veto,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said in a statement.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Todd Huston did not provide a comment before deadline.
During a virtual press conference Tuesday morning, housing advocates said overriding the veto would negatively affect the state’s economy and overall public health.
Love said the pandemic has only “amplified the negative impacts of SEA 148.”
Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, said the state does need to review its housing policies, which she believes are overly favorable to landlords, but this legislation is not the answer.
“Indiana legislators do not just represent landlords,” Nelson said. “They represent tenants, too.”
Before the legislation passed last year, a group of nearly 300 supporters sent a letter to Bray and other members of the Senate to urge them to vote against the measure.
The Indiana Apartment Association, which opposed the Indianapolis ordinances, was the biggest supporter of the legislation, arguing that statewide regulations would provide consistency for its members.