(INDIANAPOLIS) — It’s up to Governor Holcomb now to decide whether to sign a bill limiting local
Legislative Republicans have given final approval to a requirement that local health departments
get county commissioners’ blessing for an emergency health order stricter than what the governor
has imposed. And it allows businesses to appeal to the commissioners if they’re shut down for
Charlestown Senator Chris Garten (R) says the bill isn’t “a knee-jerk reaction or a combative
response” to any local health order. He says local health officials have been “heroes” during the
COVID-19 pandemic. But he says as a matter of principle, people need to have someone they can
lobby and hold accountable for significant government actions.
Democrats warn the bill will politicize decisions which should hinge on public health. And Ogden
Dunes Senator Karen Tallian (D) argues the bill’s exactly backwards: it makes it harder for health
departments to act in the most urgent situations.
Because Fishers, Gary and East Chicago have city health departments, the powers given to county commissioners would belong instead to the city council, and the mayor could veto an approval given by the council. The same would hold true in Indianapolis with the City-County Council.
The House and Senate passed the bill after clarifying the new rules apply only to emergency
orders, not every health code violation. Both votes were along party lines, with the exception of
Republican no votes from Terre Haute Senator Jon Ford and Lewisville Representative Tom
Holcomb hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill, or another one exempting worship services from
emergency orders. He’s already vetoed a third bill pushing back at pandemic emergency actions,
allowing legislators to call themselves into session to review emergency orders. Legislators have
already overridden that veto.