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Indiana lawmakers vote to override Gov. Holcomb's veto on emergency powers bill

The bill would give the legislature more authority to intervene during governor-declared emergencies on things like mask mandates and business restrictions.
Credit: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks during a media availability from the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana legislators are inching toward a possible court fight with Gov. Eric Holcomb by voting to override his veto and give themselves more authority to intervene during governor-declared emergencies.

The Republican-dominated House voted 59-26 Thursday to turn aside Holcomb’s objections. The Senate then followed suit a few hours later.

Provisions in the bill will immediately be enacted into law.

The measure would establish a new process under which legislative leaders can call the General Assembly into an emergency session when it isn’t meeting during its annual legislative session.

Gov. Eric Holcomb had called the bill unconstitutional and promised to veto it last week. Republicans have a super-majority in the statehouse and can easily override the veto.

In a statement, Holcomb had said in part:

"If HEA 1123 becomes law and can be used by the General Assembly, it will create significant uncertainty and solidify the controversy over its constitutionality. This is a matter of immediate and substantial public interest. In addition, any legislative actions taken during an unconstitutional special session will be void and thus open and subject to legal challenges to set them aside. Government should serve as a steady foundation during a time of crisis. Avoidable legal challenges during a state of emergency will only serve to be disruptive to our state."

Republican legislative leaders praise the governor’s actions during the pandemic but say the bill is meant to allow the input of lawmakers during extended emergency situations. For things like the stay-at-home orders, the mask mandates and the business restrictions, some Republicans lawmakers say they should have more of a say on such things in a public emergency.

The whole thing could also end up in court.

“It very well could,” said Rep. Matthew Lehman (R-Berne). “There's been some threats of that. You've heard that outside this building. But we're going to do what we have to do as a legislative body."

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