Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, talks to a colleague on the Senate floor. (Monroe Bush for Indiana Capital Chronicle)
The Indiana Senate announced a major leadership change Wednesday in the GOP-dominated chamber, although it’s not clear what prompted the switch.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, named Sen. Chris Garten, R-Charlestown, as the new majority floor leader of the Senate’s majority caucus in a written announcement. Garten replaces Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, who served as the floor leader since he was tapped by Bray in November 2018.
The majority leader is the second-ranking leadership position in the caucus, and helps develop and enforce the rules of the Senate. The selected senator works to promote the party’s legislative agenda and is the principal speaker during debates on the chamber floor. The position is appointed by the Pro Tem’s office.
“Serving as the Majority Floor Leader is truly an honor, and I’m grateful to Sen. Bray for extending this unique opportunity to me,” Garten said in a statement Wednesday. “As I step into this role, my primary goal will be to ensure mutual respect for all members of our revered chamber while continuing to represent the issues important to Hoosiers in Senate District 45.”
It’s not clear why Messmer was replaced. The senator did not reply to multiple requests from the Indiana Capital Chronicle for comment.
Earlier this month, Messmer was one of two Republican senators who were not present for a final vote on the GOP-backed bill that will ban virtually all abortions in the state. Before that, Messmer voted down an earlier version of the bill, saying lawmakers’ discourse showed the impossibility of “threading the needle” on abortion-related matters.
Bray said Messmer will remain chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Affairs and will “continue to play an important role in the Senate Majority Caucus and full Senate.”
Bray added that he appointed Garten to the position in recognition of his “strong leadership abilities and principled, common-sense approach as a legislator.”
“Sen. Garten has proven himself a highly capable and passionate leader, and I’m looking forward to working closely with him on our leadership team in the coming legislative session,” Bray said in a written statement. “Chris is a problem-solver who is dedicated to public service, and I think he will do a great job in this new role.”
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