INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers voted Monday to override the governor’s veto of a bill giving local elected officials power over county or city public health orders issued during emergencies
Governor Eric J. Holcomb offered the following statement:
“As I said last week, Indiana is in an economically enviable position due in large part to the heroic local response to the pandemic that was permitted by a system rewarding speed, collaboration and medical expertise in a time of health emergency. In most cases, the cooperation between local elected officials and local health officials was superb.
“I would have hoped that such sweeping change could wait until we gathered all the relevant experts and stakeholders to strike the right balance regarding local health authority during emergencies and avoid discouraging laudable service in the field of public health, especially knowing that it’s locally elected officials who appoint the local department of health board that hires the local health director in the first place.
“My administration will do just that over the coming months to supply the legislature with up-to-date data before the next regular session.”
The action to override last week’s veto by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb makes the new law effective immediately. Holcomb said he didn’t want to jeopardize the flexibility of local health officials as work continues to vaccinate more people against COVID-19.
The Republican-dominated House and Senate both easily approved the new law requiring elected county commissioners or city councils to approve any local health orders that are more stringent than statewide directives if the local measures are to take effect. That would include mask mandates now in place for cities including Bloomington, Indianapolis, South Bend, and Elkhart since the statewide mask order expired in early April.
Republican legislators say the proposal is meant to provide a “check and balance” protecting the rights of business owners following complaints about COVID-19 orders closing or limiting businesses that have been imposed over the past year.