FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A day after adding amendments to limit the state’s options to deal with COVID-19, Indiana State Representative Bob Morris (R) of Fort Wayne says he’s listening to his constituents.
“What can we do to ensure that our state moves forward?” he asks. “That businesses can function during a pandemic? That we don’t pick winners and losers on what business stays open and what businesses are restricted?”
On Monday, Morris offered amendments to H.B. 1519 that would sharply limit the state’s ability to adjust hours or reduce capacity on Indiana businesses in this public health emergency.
Democratic Rep. Rita Fleming of Jeffersonville, a medical doctor, argued that rolling back coronavirus safeguards now wasn’t wise.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb enacted the first public health emergency in March of 2020. Holcomb has said he welcomes legislative input but “the devil is in the details” about which legislation he might support.
Morris says there are many leaders at the state capitol trying to find a solution. “We are all working together. Governor Holcomb, his administration, our leadership in the House of Representatives, the State Senate – everyone is working to make our state a better place.”
Morris cites state-imposed limits that are uneven, as some businesses can stay open with few restrictions, while others operate at a percent of capacity and still others with a strict 25 or 50 person limit. “A local nursery here in town called me and said, ‘I can only have half occupancy in my nursery.’ But if you go to a big box store and they have a nursery attached, there’s hundreds of people there. There’s no restriction on those big box stores. Do you think that’s fair?
“I got a call today from a bowling alley. Their occupancy permit is for 378 people but only 25 people can show up. They can’t have their bowling league. So what can we do better to ensure that we can function as a state for years to come?”
Morris says the bill will be voted on in committee next week and need to pass the full house on a second and third reading. It would then require State Senate approval before Governor Holcomb could decide to sign it.
Morris also added amendments which would keep state and local governments from restricting hospital procedures or imposing masks and social distancing on private schools or churches. “Government does not belong in our churches.
“There’s not a person at the state capitol that doesn’t want to do the right thing to help people out. I hear from Hoosiers daily that are struggling. Every day is something new. We’re going to be smarter. We’re going to do things better to ensure that Hoosier businesses can function, that people can worship and can go to their church and that we get things back as quickly as possible to normal.”
The Indiana Department of Health reports 614,946 cases of COVID-19 and 9,432 deaths from the disease.