STATE HOUSE—You will now have more of a say in local health orders, via your local county or city government.
The state Senate has overridden Gov. Holcomb’s veto of a bill that would require local decisions like mask mandates to be approved by legislative bodies like county commissions. The bill (SEA5) mandates that that any health decision that is more stringent than one made by the state has to have that approval.
The Senate vote was 36 to 10.
The House later voted 59-30 to override the veto, making it a vote to override by both chambers.
“I feel like we are in the middle of a Republican civil war. I feel as though this is an issue between members of the Republican Party and this governor (a Republican),” said Sen. Jean Breaux, a Democrat.
She argued that Republicans were empowering the legislature to take power away from the governor, which she believes belongs to him.
Senate Republicans, like Sen. Chris Garten, argued that businesses and individuals should not be subject to arbitrary decisions by county health officers.
“This legislation would ensure that the local elected officials, who are chosen by the people to serve, represent and understand the interests of that community, have a seat at the table,” said Garten.
Garten pointed out that arbitrary orders by health departments had caused bankruptcies, the disruption of businesses and lives associated with those businesses, and even suicides. He spoke mainly of the decisions which forced businesses to either shut down or operate at extremely limited capacity.
“I would content that actions of such magnitude should have a check and balance,” he said.
Democrats, like Sen. Tim Lanane, argued in favor of the governor and his veto, saying that Holcomb essentially knows best because he has, in their opinions, successfully managed the pandemic.
“He’s the person who has managed this pandemic,” said Lanane. “He’s the person who has managed this once in a lifetime emergency that we hope we will never have to face again.”
He also took issue with the timing of the vote.
“I personally think we would have benefited by taking some time. We didn’t have to come back literally days after the governor issued the veto,” said Lanane.
While the governor may now take the case to the Indiana Supreme Court, in the meantime some municipalities like South Bend and Indianapolis must pass their local health restrictions for them to be in place. Indianapolis City-County Council Pres. Vop Osili said Monday the plan for the council was to pass the restrictions Monday evening.
Democrats also argued that some orders, which may have an immediate need to be passed in a local emergency, could take weeks in a legislative process.