Indiana lawmakers could change governor emergency powers in 2021


Aerial view of Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS — Should Indiana’s governor have less executive power during a public emergency?

Some lawmakers and the Attorney General-elect believe so and will push to strip some of the governor’s powers, during the upcoming legislative session.

“When it comes down to it, the executive order had some numbers in there that were worse than our worst-case scenario,” said State Rep. Christy Stutzman earlier this week when she stepped down as a lawmaker. She’s blaming her resignation on Governor Eric Holcomb’s COVID-19 executive orders and how they’ve negatively impacted her business.

“I feel that he has superseded what is allowable,” explained Stutzman.

She said she contacted the governor several times about her concerns.

“I was very disappointed in the fact that I was not asked for much input and my emails were not answered,” said Stutzman.

Though she’s giving up her position, she’d still like to encourage lawmakers to change current laws that only allow the governor to call a special legislative session. Attorney General-Elect Todd Rokita told us during his campaign, he would act on this issue.

“I would support them and look for ways that after a certain amount of days of a gubernatorial executive order, that the General Assembly must call itself back in or have the ability at least to call itself back in,” said Rokita.

This bill has yet to be filed.

“What’s important to understand here is that our Emergency Declaration Law, which is being used for these different executive orders, was never meant for a pandemic that has lasted as long as this,” said Rokita. “So, under our constitution, the leaders who are most accountable to the taxpayers, voters and citizens of this state are found in the legislative branch.”

But Gov. Holcomb said he has consulted legislators— especially leadership. He added on Wednesday that he is open to everyone’s input, including Stutzman.

“I am seeking to continue to be collaborative,” said Holcomb. “Ultimately, in a public health emergency, whether it’s funding or agency decisions that is, the buck stops on my desk and that is my responsibility and we can debate it.”

Both legislative majority leaders said they plan to review and consider changing executive emergency powers in 2021.

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