It’s up to Governor Holcomb now to decide whether to sign a bill limiting local health orders.
Legislative Republicans have given final approval to a requirement that local health departments get county commissioners’ blessing for an emergency health order stricter than what the governor has imposed. And it allows businesses to appeal to the commissioners if they’re shut down for violating it.
Charlestown Senator Chris Garten (R) says the bill isn’t “a knee-jerk reaction or a combative response” to any local health order. He says local health officials have been “heroes” during the COVID-19 pandemic. But he says as a matter of principle, people need to have someone they can lobby and hold accountable for significant government actions.
Democrats warn the bill will politicize decisions which should hinge on public health. And Ogden Dunes Senator Karen Tallian (D) argues the bill’s exactly backwards: it makes it harder for health departments to act in the most urgent situations.
The House and Senate passed the bill after clarifying the new rules apply only to emergency orders, not every health code violation. Both votes were along party lines, with the exception of Republican no votes from Terre Haute Senator Jon Ford and Lewisville Representative Tom Saunders.
Holcomb hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill, or another one exempting worship services from emergency orders. He’s already vetoed a third bill pushing back at pandemic emergency actions, allowing legislators to call themselves into session to review emergency orders. Legislators have already overridden that veto.