By Dan Spalding
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers pulled back on plans to meet Monday, and Gov. Eric Holcomb moved forward by extending the state’s health emergency.
Republican state lawmakers halted plans for a one-day session in which they were to consider changes in state law that would end the state’s current health emergency.
The decision comes a day after lawmakers heard testimony for some five hours as they prepared for a rare attempt to pass state law in one day and without committee hearings.
The draft proposal discussed Tuesday, Nov. 23, would have ended the health emergency in a way that would allow the state to continue receiving related federal dollars. But it also attempted to put new limits on vaccine mandates by health care employers and large companies by requiring businesses to allow for certain vaccine exemptions.
Testimony offered Wednesday, Nov. 24, in Indianapolis included criticism from state business leaders and health professionals.
Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said they support the first three sections of the bill involving ending the emergency, but opposed employer vaccine language.
Brinegar said the entire business community opposed wording about vaccines.
“Employers are getting squeezed from both directions,” said Brinegar. “It significantly discourages employers from requiring vaccinations, which in our view is contrary to what the state of Indiana has been doing for months and months.”
Others said that implementation of the law in one week would not provide time to implement testing requirements.
Still more said the state should wait to see what becomes of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates via OSHA, which is being challenged in court.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray said they will address concerns about vaccine mandates and how to end the state emergency when they reconvene in January.
Gov. Holcomb issued a statement afterward.
“Last week I made clear what would be necessary to responsibly allow the state public health emergency to expire. However, following the announcement that the General Assembly will not return on Monday, Nov. 29, I plan to extend the state public health emergency and the executive order next week for another 30 days to preserve the necessary provisions.”
Holcomb said he will continue to work closely with lawmakers as they move into the next legislative session.
Tuesday’s meeting also included numerous nurses who said they’ve been sidelined by their employers for refusing to be vaccinated.