ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE: Holcomb was right to veto bill with inserted language


Anderson Herald Bulletin

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the legislative book: insert language from failed bills into other measures that are destined to pass.

Legislators who support the main thrust of the bill but are opposed to the inserted language often swallow hard and let it slide.

Other lawmakers might not even be aware of the insertion when they vote.

While bargaining and compromise, within limits, are important to the political process, this method takes it too far.

It’s just a bad way to create laws.

Fortunately, Gov. Eric Holcomb is keeping an eye on these sorts of Statehouse shenanigans, even when members of his own Republican Party are the perpetrators.

Most recently, Holcomb vetoed House Enrolled Act 1211, which was riddled with unrelated GOP add-ons.

The bill’s original intent was to explore possible state use of blockchain technology to “achieve greater cost efficiency and cost effectiveness; and improve consumer convenience, experience, data security, and data privacy.”

Blockchain technology makes the history of a digital asset transparent and unalterable. Finding new ways to protect the integrity of state data and promote its transparency seems important.

So the bill passed, but not before unrelated language was inserted, including provisions that would have required:

• State agencies to readopt rules every four years instead of every seven.

• The attorney general to be given up to 30 days to review emergency rules — such as those affecting public health, wildlife and livestock — before enactment.

• Broadband infrastructure projects funded by a grant or loan from the state’s $500 million Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative program to satisfy stipulations in the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program.

The first requirement surely would have necessitated additional resources to adopt agency rules more often.

In vetoing the bill, Holcomb wrote of the last requirement, “This seemingly innocuous language unfortunately has the practical effect of slowing, if not arresting, approximately $154 million of broadband projects currently under active consideration as part of the … program.”

The governor also explained his objection to the emergency review rules inserted into HEA 1211.

“This bill is concerning because … certain state agencies … often have to act very quickly in adopting emergency rules,” Holcomb wrote.

The overarching message of Holcomb’s veto was more general: Don’t insert new, unrelated language at the last minute into a bill.

“On the last day of the legislative session,” he wrote, “there was entirely new and unvetted broadband language inserted into HEA 1211 that was neither introduced in a bill nor ever heard in a committee to allow for comment and debate. … Accordingly, there was no opportunity for stakeholders to review and testify about its impact or to suggest improvements to such language.”

That, precisely, is the problem with one of the oldest tricks in the legislative book.

Kudos to the governor for calling out the Legislature on this one.


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