FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — If passed, the bill would limit the state’s ability to make certain restrictions on businesses, hospitals, private schools, and churches, but Holcomb and Sutter tell WANE 15 that removing that tool from the toolbox would only make it harder to fight the virus.
Indiana House Bill 1519 would limit state and local governments from adjusting hours or reducing OCCUPANCY on Indiana businesses during public health emergencies. It would also prevent them from restricting hospital procedures or imposing requirements like social distancing and mask-wearing on private schools or churches.
Bill author Republican Representative Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) said he is proposing the legislation because state-imposed limits have been uneven, allowing some businesses to stay open with few restrictions, while others must operate at a lower occupancy. Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said the legislation would make it more difficult for health leaders to limit spread in the community.
“The ability for health officers and others to put in restrictions have been around for a long time, more than a hundred years and they’re one of the public health tools to try and stop epidemics and pandemics,” said Sutter. “It’s controversial and there’s always a little bit of tension between personal rights and community good so we’re trying to balance those two things, but I think completely taking it off the table would be a bad idea.”
Governor Eric Holcomb shared a similar sentiment when WANE 15 asked for reaction during his January 27th COVID-19 briefing.
“What I don’t want to do is sacrifice any of the approaches that we’ve taken to this day, while we are seeing Rome burning literally and figuratively in other places,” said Holcomb. “Here, we are trending in the right direction. I almost grieve at the deniers and defiers because that means everyone else has to do more or standby and watch.”
A committee vote on the bill is expected to take place next week. It would need to pass the full house on second and third readings and then would require state senate approval before hitting Holcomb’s desk.