Indiana lawmakers could seize sway over governor’s orders

(Supplied/Gov. Eric Holcomb)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana legislators would gain the authority to immediately overrule any public health emergency orders issued by the governor under a proposal advanced Thursday by lawmakers.

The move to give the Republican-dominated Legislature greater oversight of those orders comes amid conservative discontent about the 55 coronavirus-related executive orders that GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb has issued in the past 11 months — during which time lawmakers had been out of session until early January.

The proposal endorsed 7-2 by an Indiana House committee would allow a 16-member group of legislative leaders to call lawmakers back to Indianapolis for a special session at any time after the governor has issued any statewide emergency order, including for epidemics or other situations, if the Legislature isn’t currently meeting.

A previous version of the bill sponsored by House Majority Leader Matt Lehman would have require the General Assembly to be called into session for an extension of a governor’s emergency order beyond 60 days.

Lehman said that under his current proposal, legislative leaders would not be required to call lawmakers back to the Statehouse if they didn’t have objections to the governor’s orders that could still be extended 30 days at a time or take any action to confirm those orders.

“It’s just at any time during those extensions, the legislative body may say, ‘OK, the third extension we need to come back and at least have a discussion,’” said Lehman, a Republican from Berne.

The House and Senate are considering various proposals to limit the reach of state and local public health orders amid complaints about the treatment of small businesses and intrusions on personal liberty and during the COVID-19 pandemic that the state health department says has killed more than 11,000 people in Indiana. Legislators, however, have taken no action toward overturning any of Holcomb’s current public health orders.

Governors across the country are facing similar pushbacks and Holcomb has said he doesn’t want to give up the authority to act quickly.

Lehman’s proposal would largely leave in place the governor’s authority under the state’s emergency powers law, which was largely drafted in 2003 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But many legislators want greater say since they believe the law was meant for temporary situations such as floods, tornadoes or terrorist actions, even though epidemics are included among the 29 situations specified in the law.

Provisions in the bill, however, would prohibit any state or local emergency orders from placing any restrictions on religious services, including on crowd sizes.

Holcomb placed attendance limits on religious services, including funerals and weddings, during the early weeks of the pandemic but lifted those restrictions in May.

The bill, which now goes to the full House for consideration, would also require local health officials imposing tougher restrictions than ordered by the governor to first obtain approval from county commissioners or a city council. Lehman said that provision would apply only to new restrictions sought after the law would take effect.

Democrats on the House Rules Committee questioned whether such steps wrongly injected politics into public health decisions.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Pass some State laws to stop the federalism that Biden and his ILK are pushing which are unconstitutional. The 2nd amendment is under attack and our freedom to express that PA,WI, AZ,GA and MI cities stole the 2020 presidential election. We need proactive state legislatures to act.

  2. Funny thing is, there is no data telling concluding whether those OVERREACH “orders” by Holcomb and Health Departments reduced the number of deaths to the 11,000 claimed by the Health Department. Nothing that says those unconstitutional “orders” made any difference in result of how many covid death’s.

    Now that People gave up their God given Constitutional Rights in the name of public health and safety, Holcomb and the Health Department got a taste of real power. They can now tell people what to do in their private lives, and those that are sheep will listen obediently.

    People must be fine being sheep since they just stopped a Bill in the Senate (State) giving an individual the Right to sue an employer requiring a vaccine. (If everyone else gets the vaccine that wants it, why Force others to get it if they don’t?)

    Simple, they want to control you, and you are letting them.

  3. Well said, Rocky! I’m so over all of this. America needs to wake up. We are quickly turning into an oligarchy. Holcomb is no different than the dictators in Washington. He got a taste of power and is enjoying it a little too much. Sadly, he’s not going to give that up.
    We haven’t been allowed to see my grandma and grandpa (in assisted living) since early November. My grandpa, who’s mind is still there, misses us dearly. It’s sad that in his last days of life, we have a government telling us we can’t see him. My grandma’s mind was still there, but slipping, when everything shut down. After months of not being “allowed” to see her, her mind was gone, when we did see her again. We wonder, did she think we deserted her? Her entire family. So sad! Never would I have ever imagined such a thing would happen in America.

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