INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill Tuesday, May 4, that would have limited the authority of local health officials during public emergencies and shifted more control to county commissioners and city councils.
The legislation, SB 5, would have prohibited local health officials from issuing emergency rules that went any further than restrictions established at the state level.
The governor did not offer a statement on social media after he vetoed the bill.
But according to a story by wibc.com radio in Indianapolis, Holcomb says the state has sometimes had to make pandemic decisions on an “hour-to-hour” basis and says the response has been shaped in part by the knowledge that counties could tailor their own orders to local conditions.
He says the bill would jeopardize the ability to respond quickly to COVID-19 or future disease outbreaks where speed may be critical.
Indiana Public Health Association quickly applauded the move by Holcomb.
“We very much appreciate Governor Holcomb’s decision to veto this dangerous legislation and prioritize the health and safety of Hoosiers. We also hope Indiana legislators will give serious consideration to the Governor’s position when deciding on any future action.
The group defended the role of health experts.
“Guided by facts, science and a single-minded mission to keep our communities healthy, local public health officials and our broader public health partners take very seriously the responsibility to protect human health and the important balancing act between science, economic impact and personal freedoms.
House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) also released a statement supporting the governor’s move.
“I’m relieved to see that the governor has made the sensible decision to veto Senate Bill 5, a piece of legislation that would undermine local health officers and stifle their ability to effectively keep Hoosiers safe during public health emergencies,” GiaQuinta said.
“When it comes to responding to public health emergencies, local health officers have to make life and death decisions with little time to waste. House Democrats have always placed the safety of Hoosiers at the top of our list of priorities, and I’m glad to see Governor Holcomb on the same page,” he said.