Indiana lawmakers propose legislative check on governor’s emergency powers

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS —Governor Eric Holcomb’s latest executive order announcement means Indiana will have been under a public health emergency for an entire year.

That’s if the Indiana General Assembly doesn’t step in first.

Lawmakers are in the process of debating regulation for the governor’s power during a pandemic.

On March 6 of 2020, Indiana Gov. Holcomb issued the first of nearly 60 executive orders during this pandemic.

“This is around the clock,” said Holcomb.

He said since March he’s been working with medical experts on extending and creating more pandemic executive orders. Holcomb claims he has included lawmakers in this process too.

“Constant communication with legislative leaders and members. [I] understand they represent districts back home, they like to be informed, not just like, it’s part of their job,” said Holcomb.

However, many lawmakers want more say when it comes to these orders.

That’s why there is a House and a Senate bill aimed at putting a legislative check on the governor’s emergency powers.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said Holcomb’s latest order could be impacted by SB 407 if it passes unchanged.

“407 at this point does say that any emergency declaration post March 1 would be subject to that legislation,” said Bray. “So, I think we will be involved at some point. I don’t know that we are going to pass a resolution that just simply terminates the governor’s emergency powers.”

Resolutions to end the state’s public health emergency have been filed.

As for Democrats, State Sen. J.D. Ford said he thinks this is mostly a fight within the Republican party.

“Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle didn’t like the fact that the governor put out the mask order, they didn’t like the fact that he moved the election, they didn’t like the fact that he expanded absentee balloting,” said Sen. Ford.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor said he voted no on the Senate bill regarding governor powers.

“I don’t believe that the emergency orders are something that we should be stepping into as the Indiana General Assembly,” said Taylor.

However, he does feel decisions during a public health emergency are best made at a local level.

“I don’t think we need to take away the governor’s executive decision making,” said Taylor. “In my opinion, we should be asking for some collaboration.”

Governor Holcomb said he understands where lawmakers are coming from, but he does have concerns.

“We have got find that sweet spot of being able to make sure we are working together, that Indiana is known for by the way, that teamwork, but not slowing down and not having that ability to adjust,” said Holcomb.

The state’s public health emergency order was expected to expire Monday but will be extended for another 30 days.

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