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Indiana House, Senate override veto on local health rules

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INDIANAPOLIS (Fort Wayne's NBC) — With votes that easily surpassed the minimum threshold, Indiana's General Assembly on Monday overrode a veto to enact legislation that limits the actions of local health officials during an emergency.

SB5 -- which became Senate Enrolled Act 5 when it passed both chambers -- takes final say away from health departments when they try to implement restrictions that are more stringent than those issued statewide.

Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed the measure, saying it would throw out of balance a dynamic that has served Hoosiers well through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the legislation, city and county health officers are no longer able to enact restrictions that are more stringent than those put in place by the state -- unless they are approved by the broader county legislative body.

Those in opposition to that say it takes health-related decisions out of the hands of those best trained to make them.

In what has become a bit of a theme at the legislature, Democrats put up a vigorous defense for the Republican governor, with members of the GOP taking on Holcomb.

Democratic Sen. Jean Breaux urged her colleagues to respect the veto and warned that the legislature was being dragged into a "Republican civil war."

The debate in the Senate took up much of the afternoon on the day that lawmakers returned to the State Capitol.

But following hours of debate, the Senate voted 36-10 to override Holcomb's veto, and the House followed with a 59-30 vote.

Only a simple majority was needed.

Sen. Chris Garten, a Republican, authored the bill. He argued that it ensures that final say on matters with wide-ranging impact is in the hands of elected officials, not appointed ones.

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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