TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The Indiana Legislature has voted to override Governor Holcomb’s veto of Senate Bill 5. This happened on Monday during a legislative session at the Indiana Statehouse.
Basically, this means local health leaders will have to consult with other officials before enacting certain health measures. This isn’t the first time the legislature and Governor have disagreed.
Senate Bill 5 deals with local and state health departments and public health emergencies. State Representative for District 42 Alan Morrison was one of the many sponsors of the bill. He says its main goal is accountability.
The aim is to put a structure in place that makes health departments get approval from a county or city body before they can put stricter measures in place.
“We want our officials to have to answer to the citizens,” Morrison said, “When we’re dealing with health departments that are not elected, we have to somehow figure out a way to hold them accountable and that’s through our elected officials. That’s the main thrust of what this bill does.”
Senate Bill 5 originally passed through the legislature; however, Governor Holcomb vetoed the bill last week. Monday, the state legislature voted to override the Governor’s veto. State Representative Tonya Pfaff of District 43 was in opposition of the override. She reacted to News 10 in a statement that reads:
“I don’t think this bill was necessary. I think during the past 14 months our local health officer has done a great job managing the complex issues that this pandemic has created. This bill could end up harming the public and causing delays in emergency situations.”
The final count from the Indiana Senate vote was 36 to 10 in favor of the override. The Indiana house final count was 59 to 30 in favor of the override. The bill goes into effect immediately so all local mandates are now null and void.
Governor Holcomb released the following statement:
“As I said last week, Indiana is in an economically enviable position due in large part to the heroic local response to the pandemic that was permitted by a system rewarding speed, collaboration and medical expertise in a time of health emergency. In most cases, the cooperation between local elected officials and local health officials was superb.
I would have hoped that such sweeping change could wait until we gathered all the relevant experts and stakeholders to strike the right balance regarding local health authority during emergencies and avoid discouraging laudable service in the field of public health, especially knowing that it’s locally elected officials who appoint the local department of health board that hires the local health director in the first place.
My administration will do just that over the coming months to supply the legislature with up-to-date data before the next regular session.”