GOP Indiana governor vetoes bill limiting local health officials’ authority in emergencies

Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would limit local health officials’ power to impose mandates on their constituents during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to The Hill, the hugely Republican state legislature in Indiana could vote to override the governor’s veto as soon as next week. It remains unclear if Holcomb would move to sue over the contested legislation, if it eventually passed.

“All the tools needed to respond”

Holcomb, for his part, maintains that local health leaders should be given power over local decisions with regard to public health crises.

“Right now it is critical that we maintain our local health expertise, flexibility, and all the tools needed to respond,” the governor wrote in a letter explaining his veto, according to The Hill.

“We must not do anything that jeopardizes this as our heroic local health officials remain critical in the months to come as we accelerate our recovery and work to vaccinate many more Hoosiers,” Holcomb added.

Republican supporters of the bill believe the measure is necessary to protect the freedoms of businesses to operate in localities across Indiana.

Veto on the way?

If the GOP members of the state legislature do opt to override Holcomb’s veto, it wouldn’t be the first time. Indiana Republicans voted last month to override a veto by the governor on a bill giving the state legislature more power during statewide emergencies, according to the Associated Press.

The Indianapolis Star reported Tuesday: “Until this legislative session, Holcomb had only used his veto powers twice. Now he’s vetoed legislation three times this session alone.”

The Star said the moves may represent “the latest sign of discord between the Republican legislative supermajority and Holcomb, a fellow Republican.”

Past divisions

The governor’s two previous recent vetoes included one on a bill that would have allowed the state’s General Assembly to call itself into a special session, the Star reported separately.

Another would have increased labeling for ethanol fuel at gas stations.

Holcomb now faces another override — a bad sign for the recently re-elected Republican governor and his potential political ambitions.

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