April 20, 2021

Lawmakers Reach Deal Giving Local Officials Say Over Health Orders

A worker at a Pilot Travel Center gas station in Greenfield, Indiana, puts a sticker on the door telling patrons not to enter if they have symptoms associated with COVID-19.  -  Justin Hicks/IPB News

A worker at a Pilot Travel Center gas station in Greenfield, Indiana, puts a sticker on the door telling patrons not to enter if they have symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Justin Hicks/IPB News

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana legislative negotiators have reached an agreement on limiting the authority of county or city health departments by allowing local elected officials to overturn orders or enforcement actions issued during emergencies.

Republican supporters say the proposal is meant to provide a “check and balance” protecting the rights of business owners following complaints about COVID-19 orders closing or limiting businesses that have been imposed over the past year.

The agreement released Tuesday requires any local public health order that is more stringent than one issued by the governor must be approved by an elected county or city board. The deal also creates a procedure allowing the public to appeal enforcement actions such as citations, fines or an order to close a business.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he was concerned about the proposed limitations on local health officials and that he would “take a hard look” at the bill. The governor’s office didn’t immediately reply Tuesday to a request for comment.

Legislative Republicans voted last week to override Holcomb's veto on a bill giving themselves more authority to intervene during statewide emergencies declared by the governor.

The Senate and House could vote later Tuesday on final legislative approval for the bill.

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