Indiana governor vetoes bill limiting local health orders

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2021 file photo, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers his State of the State address virtually, in Indianapolis. Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita took aim Friday, May 1, 2021, at Gov. Holcomb's attempt to block a new law giving state legislators more authority to intervene during public emergencies declared by the governor. A lawsuit filed by the Republican governor on Tuesday, April 27, 2001, challenged the law enacted over his veto two weeks ago giving legislative leaders the power to call the General Assembly into what it calls an "emergency session."

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.

Some medical and health organizations opposed the bill, arguing against shifting authority away from public health professionals to local elected officials who largely lack such experience.

Legislative Republican supporters said the step was meant to provide a “check and balance” protecting the rights of business owners following complaints about COVID-19 orders closing or limiting businesses.

Indiana legislators can override Holcomb’s veto by a simple majority vote in both chambers, with the action potentially taking place during a one-day meeting next week.

Legislative Republicans voted last month to override Holcomb’s veto on a bill giving themselves more authority to intervene during statewide emergencies declared by the governor. Holcomb has filed a lawsuit against the Legislature, arguing that new law violates the state constitution.

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