Indiana lawmakers override veto on local health rules

Regional News

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers have voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill giving local elected officials power over county or city public health orders issued during emergencies.

The Republican-dominated House and Senate easily passed 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.

“Our state and local health administrators have worked admirably through a pandemic that has continued for more than a year,” Rep. Alan Morrison said. “This law ensures local elected officials have oversight as city and county public health departments consider orders during a public health emergency that can profoundly impact Hoosiers’ freedoms. This practice is already done at the state level, when the state health commissioner makes recommendations and the governor then issues an executive order. Communities can still choose to enforce measures that are stricter than ones by the state. But it’s essential that Hoosiers have a voice representing them when orders from appointed officials greatly restrict where they can go or how a business operates.”

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb issued the veto last week, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize the flexibility of local health officials as work continues to vaccinate more people against COVID-19.

“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,” Holcomb said following Monday’s vote.

Indiana legislators returned to the Statehouse for the one-day meeting Monday a little more than two weeks after wrapping up this year’s regular legislative session.

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