Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature will reconvene late this month to consider ending the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency order that has been in place since March 2020, legislative leaders said Saturday.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, and House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said lawmakers will return to the Statehouse for a one-day session on Nov. 29 and take up legislation that would allow the emergency order to expire.
The announcement comes despite a recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Indiana and other Midwestern states after those statistics improved in Indiana since the state’s last surge peaked in mid-September.
Indiana’s statewide mask mandate and business or crowd restrictions were lifted months ago.
But many conservatives have criticized Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb for continuing to extend the monthly public health order, which he has renewed 20 times. Holcomb has signaled that the 30-day renewal he signed in late October might be the last.
The governor faces a Dec. 1 deadline for extending the health emergency order and an accompanying executive order, which, among a handful of provisions, has allowed the state health commissioner to issue a standing doctor’s order allowing pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11.
Holcomb said Tuesday that he was talking with legislative leaders about allowing the public health emergency to expire if lawmakers approved steps that would allow the state to keep receiving enhanced federal funding for Medicaid expenses and food assistance programs, and also maintain the childhood vaccination authorization.
Holcomb said such actions “would allow us to wind it down responsibly.”
Bray and Huston said in a joint statement that lawmakers would consider those concerns during their one-day session, which will come more than a month ahead of the Jan. 4 scheduled start of the Legislature’s new session.
“There are only a few key components of the executive order that remain in place, including measures that help vulnerable Hoosiers. Before the emergency expires, we’ll return for a one-day session to pass legislation addressing these issues,” Huston said in the statement.
Public testimony on the legislation will be heard on Tuesday in the House Chamber starting at 10:30 a.m.