Indiana General Assembly Approves Bill Limiting Local Health Departments

Indiana General Assembly Approves Bill Limiting Local Health Departments

More:Vaccine demand is falling off. The hold outs could prevent Indiana herd immunity. “During an emergency is exactly the time when we need to act quickly,” said Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage. “You need to allow the health department officer to make a decisive move early and quick.” When Holcomb made his decision to life the restrictions, he emphasized that he was leaving the decision up to local units of government, and that Hoosiers should respect those decisions. 

More:Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be at about 40% capacity for the 2021 Indy 500 In Indianapolis, that means the city still can have stronger pandemic rules than the state, but they must be approved by Hogsett and the City-County Council in addition to the health department. 

Opponents worry that could slow down response times in the middle of a pandemic where the situation is constantly changing. Any health orders more stringent than Gov. Eric Holcomb’s during an emergency would have to be approved by the local legislative bodies and, in the case of local cities, by the mayor.

Bill author Sen. Chris Garten, R-Charlestown, called Senate Bill 5 a “pro-local government” and “pro-local control” bill. “This language is not a knee-jerk reaction or a combative response to any enforcement action,” Garten said. “Senate Bill 5 simply creates a structural check and balance on a position that has unparalleled authority under these emergency orders.” More:Why some homebuyers are paying $100,000 over asking price in Central Indiana

The bill also requires local legislative bodies to approve the appointment of health officers, and enables them to remove them for good cause.  Senate Bill 5 also allows people to appeal local health department actions during an emergency to the local legislative body, another transfer of power from local health officials to elected officials. Likewise, a health officer would need approval from a legislative body to go to court to enforce an order if needed, another step opponents worry could slow the process.

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