Gov. Holcomb vetoes bill limiting the authority of county and city health departments

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s governor has vetoed a bill that would limit the authority of county or city health departments by allowing local elected officials to block public health orders issued during emergencies. 

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a veto message Tuesday that the time wasn’t right to jeopardize the flexibility of local health officials as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and work continues to vaccinate more people. 

“It is hard to express the rapidity needed in the early days of the pandemic – particularly on the local level,” Holcomb said in his statement. “One reason Indiana weathered the storm so well is due to coordination with local health experts and the flexibility in law to be fast, nimble, and targeted.”

Legislative Republican supporters said Senate Bill 5 was meant to provide a “check and balance” following complaints about COVID-19 orders closing or limiting businesses. 

Some medical and health organizations opposed the bill, arguing against shifting authority away from public health professionals to local elected officials who largely lack such experience.

“We very much appreciate Governor Holcomb’s decision to veto this dangerous legislation and prioritize the health and safety of Hoosiers. We also hope Indiana legislators will give serious consideration to the Governor’s position when deciding on any future action, Guided by facts, science, and a single-minded mission to keep our communities healthy, local public health officials and our broader public health partners take very seriously the responsibility to protect human health and the important balancing act between science, economic impact, and personal freedoms.
Thank you again, Governor Holcomb, for your support of public health officials and the critically important work being done to protect communities throughout our state.”  – Indiana Public Health Association (IPHA) & Indiana State Association of City and County Health Officials (INSACCHO)

Indiana legislators can override Holcomb’s veto by a simple majority vote in both chambers, with the action potentially taking place during a one-day meeting next week.