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Governor revives agency killed by mistake

Clerical error canceling FSSA one of many in odd session

– Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an executive order late Thursday to maintain Indiana’s human services structure after realizing lawmakers accidentally eliminated the state’s largest agency in a bill that went into effect this month.

“It apparently was repealed as of June 30 in a drafting error,” said Jane Jankowski, spokesman for the governor.

The Family and Social Services Administration manages Medicaid and other major programs for Indiana’s poor, elderly and disabled.

Senate staffers brought the error to Daniels’ attention Thursday, and he quickly signed an executive order continuing the agency and its duties. Executive orders were used to establish and run the agency in prior decades before it was put into law, Jankowski said.

The executive order will hold until legislators can fix the mistake or the governor can issue an annual order.

Though possibly the most extreme example, it’s not the first time this year that legislation from the 2011 session was found to be flawed.

“We have had some clerical errors that seem to be more than I can recall in the past,” conceded House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

For example, a bill establishing wage rates for public construction projects accidentally deleted the minimum threshold for a six-month period, which could cost taxpayers more on small projects.

Numerous major education initiatives had errors that had to be fixed in the budget bill before lawmakers left town.

Federal judges have issued injunctions against both an abortion and immigration bill, while a voucher bill also faces a constitutional challenge.

And a new law giving felons a chance to seal their records likely needs to be tweaked to make it more consistent.

Bosma said the constitutional issues are unrelated because interest groups usually challenge voucher and abortion legislation around the country.

But he conceded to more mistakes overall and said leadership in the House and Senate is “addressing the issue” with the Legislative Services Agency, though he declined to elaborate.

The Legislative Services Agency is a nonpartisan agency charged with legal and fiscal review of legislation.

In the case of the FSSA mix-up, the point of Senate Bill 331 was to repeal a provision already in law that would have automatically eliminated FSSA – called a sunset. The sunset language was set for June 30. The bill that repealed the sunset provision went into effect July 1.

So technically, FSSA was eliminated minutes before the bill went into effect to save it.

Bosma said the five-week House Democrat walkout is partly to blame, creating a compressed time period at the end of session to get things done.

“We lost five weeks, and those were workhorse weeks where we pore over legislation. There was a crunch at the end, so there is little doubt that had an impact.”

Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, said it’s easy to blame Democrats but said Republicans were simply pushing too much too fast.

He said in the last month, lawmakers still had Fridays and weekends off that could have been used to catch up if leadership felt the General Assembly was behind.

Moses also said no one can blame Legislative Services, because each caucus has staff attorneys and lawmakers who carry the bills, both of whom are responsible for reading legislation to make sure it’s correct.

“These are entirely Republican flubs,” he said. “They just didn’t do a thorough enough job. They were in charge.”

nkelly@jg.net

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