Indiana governor vetoes bill curtailing emergency power

Holcomb

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday vetoed a bill that would have given legislators more authority to intervene during emergencies declared by the governor.

Posted: Apr 9, 2021 5:28 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday vetoed a bill that would have given legislators more authority to intervene during emergencies declared by the governor.

Holcomb issued the veto on the proposal that lawmakers approved over his objections, and which he and some legal experts have said they don’t believe is allowed under the state constitution.

Holcomb’s fellow Republicans pushed the bill after months of criticism from some conservatives over COVID-19 restrictions that he imposed by executive order during the statewide public health emergency over the past year.

“I firmly believe a central part of this bill is unconstitutional,” Holcomb wrote in his veto letter. “The legislation impermissibly attempts to give the General Assembly the ability to call itself into a special session, thereby usurping a power given exclusively to the governor."

Lawmakers could vote to override Holcomb’s veto before the current legislative session ends in late April. Unlike Congress and most states, Indiana lawmakers can override a governor’s veto by a simple majority of both chambers.

The bill would establish a new process for the General Assembly to call itself into an emergency session when it isn’t meeting during its annual legislative session. The legality of that process, however, has been questioned since the state constitution gives the governor — not the Legislature — the authority for calling a special session.

The bill cleared the Legislature on Monday as House members voted 64-33 in favor, with four Republicans joining all Democrats voting against it. The Senate approved the bill in a 37-10 party-line vote.

Amid the legislative back-and-forth, Holcomb announced March 23 that he would lift the statewide mask mandate and remaining coronavirus business restrictions — a step that took effect the day after the bill's passage.

Republican legislative leaders have praised Holcomb’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic but say the bill is meant to allow the input of lawmakers during extended emergency situations.

The Legislature’s powers include authority to terminate emergency orders issued by the governor. Republican lawmakers have introduced such resolutions during this year’s session, but legislative leaders haven’t advanced them for any votes.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston has said he was grateful for how Holcomb has handled the coronavirus pandemic, which health officials say has killed more than 13,000 people in the state.

Huston said he told Holcomb last spring and summer that he didn’t believe a special legislative session was needed but that future legislatures could believe they needed greater involvement during a long-lasting emergency.

“It’s just a disagreement we’ll let the courts decide and we’ll have an answer going forward,” Huston said earlier this month.

Holcomb hasn’t said his office would file a lawsuit on the issue and it isn’t clear when that could happen.

Other provisions in the bill would give lawmakers more control over federal relief money that Indiana receives.

Other bills advancing in the Legislature would give city and county elected officials more oversight of orders issued by local health officers and limit restrictions from health orders that could be placed on religious services.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
Huntington7661115
Gibson7102118
Montgomery7101123
Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
Whitley659660
Miami6595113
Putnam645085
Clinton627179
Wabash6221111
Jasper613192
Jefferson5856105
Ripley557294
Adams542281
Daviess5076117
Scott491580
Wells4836105
White478469
Greene4701101
Clay464662
Decatur4611110
Fayette452496
Jennings452067
LaGrange427491
Posey410044
Randolph3944107
Washington390956
Fountain375964
Fulton364874
Spencer362247
Starke355574
Owen353577
Sullivan348555
Orange331372
Jay331050
Rush309533
Carroll296239
Franklin292744
Perry290553
Vermillion283658
Tipton251167
Parke250130
Pike248644
Blackford222144
Pulaski210359
Newton182452
Brown177550
Crawford169129
Benton168417
Martin152120
Switzerland147612
Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
Unassigned0595

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