Governor Holcomb says a bill requiring county commissioners to sign off on local emergency health orders would jeopardize both public health and the economy.
Legislators will vote Monday on whether to override Holcomb’s veto of a bill allowing the commissioners to block health orders stricter than what’s in effect statewide. The bill would also let the commissioners reopen businesses shut down for violating health orders.
Supporters argue an unelected health officer shouldn’t have free rein to close businesses or limit how they operate. Holcomb says the commissioners are part of the process already — the commissioners appoint the local health boards which choose the department director. He says he’s willing to work with legislators on ways to give elected officials a larger role. But he says the bill would slow down health departments’ ability to respond to emergencies like the pandemic where conditions are changing constantly and rapidly. He says there have been occasions during the pandemic when state and local health officials were confering hour-by hour. He says health departments’ “heroic” performance in responding quickly is what’s allowed Indiana to escape major economic damage.
The bill passed the House and Senate on near party-line votes. To sustain his veto, Holcomb would have to persuade either 12 Senate Republicans or 15 in the House to change their minds.