Governor extends public health order after lawmakers put brakes on vaccine mandate exemptions

Governor Eric Holcomb

STATEHOUSE — Governor Eric Holcomb on Wednesday extended Indiana’s COVID-19 public health emergency order for another 30 days after Statehouse leaders decided not to meet in special session on Monday.

Lawmakers will instead work on legislation to lift the order, but action will not be taken until January.

The health order will now be extended into the New Year.

It was set to expire on December 1.

After announcing he would extend the executive order, Holcomb released a statement:

“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, November 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. I will continue to work closely with Speaker Huston and Senator Bray as we move into the next legislative session.”

Lawmakers came up with a draft proposal covering the Governor’s three top concerns — that Indiana will be able to match federal funds for Medicare and food stamps and expand the list of people who can administer vaccines — but the plan would also force businesses and state universities to grant COVID-19 vaccination requirement exemptions.

Those issues were the subject of a hotly-contested debate Tuesday in public testimony.

House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) released the following statement:

“Tuesday’s passionate public testimony reinforced the concerns I’ve heard from constituents and business leaders over the federal mandates. While most Indiana companies are acting in good faith, it’s unacceptable that some employers are blatantly disregarding well-established vaccine exemptions, and we’ll address these issues through legislation. Over the next month, we’ll continue to listen and talk with stakeholders about our policy proposals, and we’ll file legislation in the near future. Hoosiers can rest assured that we’ll hit the ground running come January 4.”

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) also released a statement:

“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. These matters will be taken up in earnest at the outset of the coming legislative session.”