Indiana Democratic lawmakers want a special session to talk pandemic, police reform issues

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Legislative Democrats want a special session next month to address pandemic issues and police reform.

A bipartisan study committee is already looking at police reform, but Democrats say there’s no need for a study to ban chokeholds, racial profiling, and no-knock warrants. Indianapolis Representative Robin Shackleford, who chairs the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, notes Democrats have introduced bills to ban racial profiling in the past but haven’t gotten a hearing.

Democrats also want a legislative oversight committee to have a say in how the state spends two-billion dollars in federal pandemic aid from the CARES Act. Governor Holcomb has already announced some initiatives for that money, including rent assistance, job training, and small-business grants to help them buy protective gear or accommodate social distancing. House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) says there should be more money earmarked for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, and to help unemployed Hoosiers with health insurance premiums.

And Democrats want legislators to approve absentee ballots for any Hoosier voter who wants to vote by mail in November. The Indiana Election Commission approved mail-in voting for last month’s primary at Holcomb’s urging without legislative action. Holcomb has been noncommittal about whether he’ll endorse a similar expansion of mail-in voting for the general election.

Indiana is one of 16 states which require a specific reason to vote absentee. Seven of those states have already lifted those limits for November due to the pandemic.

Only the governor can order a special session. Legislators currently aren’t scheduled to resume work until January, though they’ll return for the annual one-day organizational meeting in November.

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