INDIANAPOLIS – State lawmakers might return for one day in December to pass statutory changes needed for Gov. Eric Holcomb to end the state's public health emergency.
House Speaker Todd Huston said that possibility – and other options – are still being discussed.
Holcomb said Tuesday his staff reviewed aspects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and found that three things are needed to “responsibly” end the emergency. The current order expires at the end of the month, but Holcomb will likely extend it without action by lawmakers.
“To carry this out, I am working with Senator (Rodric) Bray and Speaker Huston to consider passing three key statutory changes to continue protecting Hoosiers by allowing for the continuation of enhanced federal matching funds for Medicaid expenditures, the continuation of the enhanced benefit for those receiving federal food assistance and extend the ability to efficiently vaccinate our 5- to 11-year-olds,” Holcomb said.
Without the changes, the state could lose millions of federal dollars if the emergency order ends.
Huston said there is general agreement on these three items but there could be more.
The news came as lawmakers returned to Indianapolis for Organization Day, a largely administrative day marking the beginning of the new session.
Lawmakers are set to return Jan. 4 to work on legislation, unless Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Bray call them back earlier.
Bray said they are “working right now in earnest” to end the emergency status.
Two House resolutions were filed Tuesday by Republican lawmakers that would have ended the order immediately. But the resolutions were assigned to the Rules Committee and no action was taken.
Huston said ending the emergency is symbolic.
“A lot of us feel like, you know, we need to move forward,” he said noting Hoosiers' weariness of COVID-19.
Huston said it is time to shift from a government response to individual responsibility – especially with vaccines, boosters and improved therapeutics available to everyone.
He added that getting cases to zero isn't a possibility. “How do you navigate in a world where you manage risk appropriately? And that's what we're trying to do,” he said.
County COVID death toll rises
Eight more Allen County residents have died from COVID-19 and 228 tested positive for the virus, bringing the totals to 845 deaths and 62,332 cases, the county health department said Tuesday. The Indiana Department of Health reported 2,830 more COVID-19 cases and 42 deaths, bringing the totals to 1,058,379 cases and 16,577 deaths.
– Journal Gazette