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Holcomb Vetoes Bill Tying Hands Of Local Health Officials During Emergencies

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Gov. Eric Holcomb issued his third veto this year Tuesday, rejecting a bill that would’ve tied the hands of local health officials during public emergencies.

The legislation, SB 5, would have barred local health officials from issuing emergency rules that went any further than restrictions created by the state. Instead, only local legislative bodies – county commissioners or city councils – could have done that.

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So, for instance, county mask mandates now in place – with the state’s mandate repealed – would be blocked unless approved by those local elected leaders.

Holcomb said the bill undermines local responses to emergencies that have been key through the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s response to the virus, he says, was influenced greatly by the knowledge that local health officials could also respond to the rapidly changing situation.

With the work of addressing and recovering from the pandemic still ongoing, Holcomb said he vetoed the bill to avoid disrupting that.

Contact reporter Brandon at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.