(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indiana’s health emergency declaration is approaching its second anniversary, but legislative leaders say the end is in sight.
Governor Holcomb said in November the only remaining hurdle before ending the emergency is to pass a bill preserving enhanced Medicaid and food stamp benefits, and maintaining the state health department’s ability to authorize COVID-19 vaccinations. Those steps are currently authorized by executive orders under the emergency declaration. The bill to place them in state law has repeatedly gotten entangled in other issues, but House and Senate leaders say it’s on track to pass, possibly next week.
Legislators appeared to knock down the bill’s last obstacle on Thursday, averting a potentially thorny debate over amendments by yanking it off the House floor. Two hours later, the language reappeared in the Senate on a unanimous voice vote.
The maneuver brings the bill full circle. The House coupled Holcomb’s provisions with language essentially barring workplace vaccine requirements. The Senate has scaled back that proposal, requiring employers to honor medical or religious exemptions, while allowing companies to verify those objections.
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says the “temperature has been lowered” on the vaccine debate after U.S. Supreme Court rulings which upheld a federal vaccine requirement for health care workers while blocking an attempt to require it for all large employers.
Holcomb was vocal early in the session about his concerns with the House’s more restrictive limits. He says he’s been talking with legislators this week about the bill. He says he’s “anxious” to end the health emergency, but cautions he’ll have to review the final version of the provisions which go beyond his three requests.
The latest version of the emergency declaration expires next Friday. Holcomb says he’ll extend it again if legislators need more time to finalize the bill.
Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) are both unequivocal in declaring the bill will pass. Huston says legislators won’t use their power to vote an end to the emergency, but will pass Holcomb’s three requests before the session’s end next month.
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