Indiana lawmakers and capitol police look to enforce mask wearing

Regional News

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INDIANAPOLIS — Punishments for violating the mask order at the Indiana Statehouse are now being considered after many refused to wear one during a hearing Wednesday.

People were there to testify about civil liberty concerns on a bill that’s just one of several addressing this topic in 2021.

“They were told that they had to wear masks,” said Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray.

Many didn’t listen as they came to testify in support of Senate Bill 74.

It proposes banning companies from mandating employee vaccinations including COVID-19.

“The people of Indiana are tired of being told what they can or cannot do.” said Joan Billman, one of the people who testified in favor of the bill. “Being mandated to wear a mask is wrong but being mandated to have a dangerous medical procedure is criminal.”

“We want a place where Hoosiers feel educated, empowered and able to exercise their medical liberties with true and informed consent, not by being compelled or coerced,” added Ashley Grogg, a representative for Hoosiers for Medical Liberty.

More than 50 people showed up to testify in person but not everyone was allowed to take the microphone due to time. Some chose to leave out of fear of catching COVID-19.

“I think he left,” said Committee Chair State Sen. Phillip Boots, as someone asked if a particular person was there to testify. “I think he said because they weren’t wearing masks he wasn’t going to be there.”

People no longer feeling comfortable to testify in person is one reason legislative leadership is now working with capitol police to discuss potential punishments for not obeying the mask order.

“We don’t want our process to be derailed by something like this, we don’t intend for that to happen,” said Sen. Bray.

“We want people to feel safe, we want people to have an opportunity to come testify in a manner they feel safe,” added Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston.

As for the employee vaccination bill, it hasn’t gotten a vote yet.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce strongly opposed it.

“Most employers are not going to mandate vaccinations. It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t really help the morale of their employees, but there are some cases, mostly in hospital settings or healthcare provider settings where it does make some sense,” said Michael Ripley, Vice President of Health Care Policy and Employment law with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Lawmakers didn’t share what those potential penalties for not wearing a mask could be.

If you do not feel safe testifying at the statehouse, you can always send in written or recorded testimony.

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