INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb will extend the COVID-19 public health emergency for another 30 days after legislative leaders on Wednesday canceled a planned one-day session Monday to pass language regarding the emergency and blocking employer vaccine mandates.
The move came after a seven-hour hearing Monday in which very few people testified in favor of the measure.
GOP lawmakers had planned an extraordinary one-day session Monday to suspend rules and pass the new law. The language and announcement came Saturday morning.
“The ongoing complexities of the issues raised and the potential unintended consequences, the logistics of moving legislation to the floor during a time when the General Assembly is not typically in session, and the need for the public and members of the General Assembly to fully vet the legislation have led to the conclusion that the efforts to gather input and better solutions should continue until the legislature reconvenes in January,” said Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray. “These matters will be taken up in earnest at the outset of the coming legislative session."
Holcomb had listed three administrative provisions he needed in state law to allow the public health emergency order to expire at the end of November while also ensuring the state continued to be able to offer free vaccine clinics and receive additional federal dollars for Medicaid and food assistance.
“Last week I made clear what would be necessary to responsibly allow the state public health emergency to expire. However, following the announcement that the General Assembly will not return on Monday, Nov. 29, I plan to extend the state public health emergency and the executive order next week for another 30 days to preserve the necessary provisions,” the governor said in a statement. “I will continue to work closely with Speaker Huston and Senator Bray as we move into next legislative session.”
The emergency language wasn't contentious. But lawmakers added COVID-19 vaccine language that would have effectively gutted the ability of private companies to require the vaccine. Business groups lined up against the bill – opposing the government intervention.
“The Indiana Manufacturers Association agrees with the decision announced by legislative leaders today and thanks the joint Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee for taking the time to hear our concerns with the proposed language,” said Brian Burton, president and CEO of the Indiana Manufacturers Association. “The COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing in Indiana and across the world, with infection rates again on the rise and new variants emerging.
“Manufacturers are best-equipped to make their own decisions regarding workplace vaccination policies, and those decisions should be made independent of unnecessary government intervention.”