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The House dismantled part of former Gov. Mike Pence’s legacy Thursday when they decided to override two of his vetoes.
Pence vetoed both bills in 2016 following events that captured national attention.
Rules limiting state environmental department’s power
House Bill 1082 would have prevented the standards and rules by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management from going into effect, if they were tougher than federal law.
Pence said he wanted to ensure the state could create its own solutions in the case of an emergency.
However, the bill’s author, Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw, argued Thursday that the bill does not restrict Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s ability to act.
“I’m here to tell you what happened in Flint had absolutely nothing to do with a more stringent ban. Flint was a result of major mistakes by many people who did not follow existing regulations. A stricter regulation would not have changed that,” he said.
Wolkins said the bill still allows the department to enact more stringent regulations. The department just has to report to the legislative council and their proposed actions would not go into effect until reviewed by legislators.
Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, who voted against the override, disagreed with Wolkins’s statement that more stringent regulations wouldn’t have helped Flint residents.
“Some more regulations and frankly some stiffer penalties for the government officials in Michigan who allowed children to be poisoned, and are still allowing it to happen, really could have and would have affected change,” Forestal said.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said the state should be able to have stricter regulations on the environment and that is more important now in 2017 with the election of President Donald Trump and a Republican controlled Congress.
“The federal government is about to require less protections for the environment and so we’ve just passed a bill that says we can’t do any better than their poor performance,” he said.
DeLaney said this veto was one of the few times he was proud of Pence.
The House voted 65-29 to override Pence’s veto.
Private university police departments release less information
House Bill 1022, authored by Rep. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, would required police departments at private universities to release records in cases with arrests, but not in cases involving accidents and complaints.
Pence vetoed the bill, arguing that limiting access to police records is a barrier to transparency.
That veto came just days after the Indiana Court of Appeals ruling of the ESPN v. University of Notre Dame case. Notre Dame had denied ESPN’s request for cases involving student athletes. The ruling said the Notre Dame police force was a “public agency” and was required to produce certain documents unless otherwise protected under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.
However, in November, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled that private universities are not subject to the public records law.
“Because the Supreme Court says it’s right, I think we should concur the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court. And put this unanimous bill back into law,” Bauer said Thursday.
The House voted 93-2 to override the veto, with only Rep. Thomas Washburne, R-Inglefield, and Rep. Richard Hamm, R-Richmond, voting against.
Washburne said he is opposed to regulating private institutions.
“When they asked if we wanted to override the veto, I thought about it and thought, well no because that’s putting Notre Dame back into the category where because they have this police force they’re going to have to turn over their records,” he said.
The Senate will now consider overriding the vetoes on these two bills.