A brief history of Special Sessions in Indiana

Under Indiana’s original constitution in force from 1816-1851, the General Assembly met annually, and all legislative business was expected to be completed during the winter months in which they met. To that end, there wasn’t a single special session called during those years. When Indiana drafted a new constitution in 1851, the legislature was only allowed to meet in odd-numbered years, and thus the idea of special sessions were contemplated in case urgent business was required in even-numbered years.

Between 1851 and 1970 (when the constitution was amended to allow the legislature to meet annually under our current long-session/short-session scheme), there were 24 special sessions called. 12 were in non-session (even-numbered) years, and 12 were in regular session years.

Since 1970, however, special sessions have primarily been reserved for completing state budgets.  In fact, of the 11 special sessions called between 1970 and 2018, 9 were to complete a budget, and only one immediately followed a short session.

Here’s a quick list of all special sessions called in Indiana history:

General Assembly #Start DateEnd Date
136th1852-04-201852-06-21
240th1858-11-201858-12-25
341st1861-04-241861-06-02
444th1865-11-131865-12-22
546th1869-04-081869-05-17
648th1872-11-131872-12-22
749th1875-03-091875-03-15
850th1877-03-061877-03-15
951st1879-03-111879-03-31
1052nd1881-03-081881-04-16
1154th1885-03-101885-04-13
1265th1908-09-181908-09-30
1371st1920-01-161920-01-16
1471st1920-07-121920-07-30
1572nd1921-12-141921-12-14
1677th1932-07-071932-08-15
1779th1936-03-051936-03-18
1880th1938-07-191938-07-30
1983rd1944-04-111944-04-14
2083rd1944-11-041944-11-04
2187th1951-09-241951-10-26
2293rd1963-03-121963-04-20
2394th1965-06-081965-06-08
2494th1965-10-181965-11-22
25100th1977-05-231977-05-23
26102nd1981-05-271981-05-29
27103rd1982-12-061982-12-16
28105th1987-04-301987-04-30
29106th1989-05-021989-05-04
30107th1991-05-131991-05-22
31107th1991-05-231991-06-13
32108th1993-06-091993-06-30
33110th1997-05-141997-05-29
34112th2002-05-142002-06-22
35116th2009-06-112009-06-30
36120th2018-05-142018-05-14

UPDATE: Here’s a quick compilation of issues that led to special sessions post-1970.

  • 1977: The state budget wasn’t completed on time; additionally, there was disagreement over changes to property taxes that were unresolved
  • 1981: School funding formula couldn’t be agreed upon, which meant state budget wasn’t completed on time
  • 1982: Due to missed fiscal projections, the state faced a $450+ million budget deficit that required new revenue and spending measures
  • 1987: An education reform package (that eventually gave us ISTEP) and tax package proposed by Gov. Orr weren’t agreed upon, which meant state budget wasn’t completed on time
  • 1989: Disagreement on the establishment of the Hoosier Lottery, parimutuel betting at horse tracks, property tax relief, and Gov. Bayh’s education plan led to the state budget not being completed on time
  • 1991, first session: The state budget wasn’t completed on time; additionally, redistricting bills weren’t completed on time
  • 1991, second session: After a disagreement over whether to tackle redistricting or a state budget first, Senate Democrats boycotted any floor action and Senate Republicans responded by abruptly adjourning the first special session; Gov. Bayh was required to call a second session to deal with the same issues
  • 1993: Disagreement over how to fund increased Medicaid costs (Gov. Bayh proposed a hospital tax, and then a cigarette tax, both rejected by Republicans) meant the state budget wasn’t completed on time
  • 1997: Disagreement on several issues meant the budget wasn’t completed on time, including worker’s compensation benefits; unemployment benefits; the threshold at which Indiana’s inheritance tax kicked in; and a package to expand the Convention Center, renovate the RCA Dome, and build a new arena for the Indiana Pacers (what eventually became Conseco/Banker’s Life/TBD Field House)
  • 2002: The post-9/11 recession led to missed fiscal projections and a $1.3 billion budget deficit; additionally, the proposed tax package also restructured property taxes to avoid increases for homeowners as much as 90%
  • 2009: Unresolved issues related school funding and education reform initiatives meant the state budget wasn’t completed on time

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