(INDIANAPOLIS) — County commissioners could overturn local health orders and citations for
violating them, under a bill expected to get a final vote on Wednesday.
The bill is a priority for Senate Republicans, who argue elected officials need the ability to review
the actions of an unelected health department. The proposal allows businesses shut down for
violating a health order to appeal the decision to the commissioners instead of going to court. The
commissioners would have the option of putting the shutdown on hold until they hear the appeal.
The final bill also gives commissioners the right to reject a health order stricter than what the
governor has imposed. In Indianapolis, which combines city and county government, and in
Fishers, Gary and East Chicago, which have their own health departments, the override authority
would belong to the city council — and the mayor could veto the order and make the council vote
again. It also says violators can appeal to either the commissioners or the courts, not both.
House Majority Leader Matt Lehman (R-Berne) says county commissioners have said they won’t
do anything to endanger public safety — they want the authority to address overreach. Democrats
warn the bill would politicize what should be public health decisions.
Republicans are making some final revisions to keep the focus on emergency orders, not routine health department actions.
Governor Holcomb hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill.