INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb withstood criticism over his use of state
emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic, cruising to a resounding
Holcomb will likely
face a similar debate again soon - this time from fellow Republicans when
they return to the Statehouse for the upcoming legislative session.
across the state argue Holcomb infringed upon individual rights with a
statewide mask mandate and executive orders forcing the closure of
businesses deemed nonessential during the early weeks of the pandemic.
That has some
Republican legislators looking to rein in the governor’s authority under the
state’s emergency law, which was largely drafted in 2003 following the 9/11
Rokita, who won election to become state attorney general starting in
January, said he believed it was meant for temporary situations such as
floods, tornadoes or terrorist actions, even though epidemics are included
among the 29 situations specified in the law.
The 46 coronavirus-related
executive orders that Holcomb has signed since first issuing a public health
emergency in early March will likely be a target for many of the rural
conservatives in the Republican-dominated Legislature. Some have suggested
steps such as limiting any emergency action by the governor to 30 days
without legislative support.
Speaker Todd Huston said the issue will certainly be debated but declined to
outline any specific changes.
Holcomb’s handling of the state’s COVID-19 response and said that
legislators would work with the governor on any revisions to his authority
as lawmakers had not considered such a long-lasting emergency.
“It’s created a new
lens of viewing the emergency powers act and I think we need to take a fresh
look at it and find an appropriate balance,” Huston said. “If you aren’t
evaluating everything after being in the midst a pandemic, that’d be a
Indiana has seen
steep increases in new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths
since Holcomb lifted nearly all coronavirus-related limits on businesses and
crowd sizes in September.
moving average of COVID-19 deaths has tripled to about 30 since late
September and hospitalizations have jumped more than 150%, according to the
state health department. The state’s death toll has topped 4,500, including
confirmed and presumed coronavirus infections, since the first coronavirus
fatality in March.
resisted calls for reinstating coronavirus limits, saying the public needs
to increase the use of face masks and other precautions to slow the virus
Holcomb defends his
actions as necessary during a pandemic and doesn’t show signs of wanting new
limits placed on his emergency powers. He said Wednesday, the day after his
reelection victory, that he “looked forward” to talking with lawmakers
during the legislative session that starts in January.
“Not just the
necessity for a mask mandate for the state, but for any other question that
they might have or access to information that they might want while they are
all here,” Holcomb said.
reelection victory margin was among the largest in state history, but
conservative critics flocked to support Libertarian candidate Donald
Rainwater, who flatly rejected the face mask order and received about 11
percent of the statewide vote - about triple the typical support for
Libertarian governor candidates in recent elections.
finished second in about a third of Indiana’s 92 counties, ahead of Democrat
Woody Myers, who called for tougher coronavirus actions than Holcomb has
their large majorities in the House and Senate, will likely drive whatever
changes are considered to the governor’s authority.
Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne said legislators shouldn’t
rush into imposing limits on the emergency powers.
“The governor, more
so than individual legislators, has a better idea of where we’re going and
how complicated these things can be and the Legislature is trying to
micromanage a little bit too much,” GiaQuinta said. “I want to hear what the
governor has to say with regards to the flexibility he needs, working with
the department of health, to be able to make the case for doing the mask
mandate and everything else.”