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.
Legislative Republican supporters said the step was meant to provide a “check and balance” following complaints about COVID-19 orders closing or limiting businesses.
The bill would require any local public health orders more stringent than one issued by the governor go before elected county commissioners or city councils for approval. Holcomb’s coronavirus-related executive orders over the past year have allowed local officials to establish tougher regulations — an authority he frequently cited in defending his decisions lifting various statewide travel, crowd size and business restrictions.
The bill would also give local elected officials hiring authority over local health officers and create a procedure allowing the public to appeal enforcement actions such as citations, fines or an order to close a business to an elected county or city board. Final negotiations on the bill left out provisions from a previous version that would have allowed a business to stay open during its appeal even if it was not following health orders.
Indiana legislators can override Holcomb’s veto by a simple majority vote in each chamber.