INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s governor has vetoed a bill that would limit the authority of county or city health departments by allowing local elected officials to block public health orders issued during emergencies.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a veto message Tuesday that the time wasn’t right to jeopardize the flexibility of local health officials as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and work continues to vaccinate more people.
"It is hard to express the rapidity needed in the early days of the pandemic – particularly on the local level," Holcomb said in his statement. "One reason Indiana weathered the storm so well is due to coordination with local health experts and the flexibility in law to be fast, nimble, and targeted."
Legislative Republican supporters said Senate Bill 5 was meant to provide a “check and balance” following complaints about COVID-19 orders closing or limiting businesses.
Indiana legislators can override Holcomb’s veto by a simple majority vote in each chamber and did so recently on a bill allowing the Legislature to call itself into session during state emergency orders like with the pandemic. That would allow it to pass laws and make other moves to challenge decisions made by the governor.