INDIANAPOLIS (Network Indiana): Does the governor have the authority to make it a crime to not wear a mask during this pandemic? Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill says “no.”
On Wednesday Governor Eric Holcomb announced he was rolling out a statewide mandate requiring you to wear a facemask in public. It makes it a Class B misdemeanor to be out in public without a mask on.
“Our order will require masks or face coverings for anyone 8 years or older while you are in public, indoor places,” Holcomb said. “While not wearing a mask is a Class B misdemeanor please know that the ‘mask police’ will not be patrolling public streets.”
In an advisory opinion, Hill says the governor lacks the authority to make it a crime to not wear a mask. He said instead of an executive order, Holcomb should have called a special session of the state legislature in order to pass a law.
“The wisdom of wearing masks — or of laws requiring such measures — is not the issue here,” Hill said. “Rather, the issue is whether we are following the proper and constitutional processes for enacting laws and whether we are respecting the distinct roles of each branch of state government.”
Some legal experts argue the state is still under an emergency declaration because of the pandemic, so that gives Holcomb the authority to enact the mandate. State law says a state of emergency in Indiana can only last as long as 30 days unless it is renewed by the governor.
Holcomb has renewed an emergency declaration every month for the last four months since the pandemic started. The current renewal expires on August 3rd.