Should the Legislature tighten the governor’s emergency powers?
Saturday marks a year since the first COVID-19 case in Indiana and Gov. Eric Holcomb’s state-of-emergency declaration. A year later, it seems almost automatic to grab your mask with your wallet and keys when heading out the door. Life as we knew it changed. However, with time, we’ve adapted and found ways to live more safely during the pandemic. The NCAA even found a way to host the Big Dance here.
But make no mistake: It took executive leadership at the Statehouse to get us here. The massive failure of executive leadership in Washington meant governors across the country had to dig deep and lead in order to save lives.
Whether in a hospital emergency room or the halls of the Statehouse, times of crisis call for clear and decisive action. Lives are counting on it.
Our founders recognized this in their creation of an executive branch designed to run the daily operation of government, and especially during an emergency when time is of the essence.
However, some at the Statehouse now want to play Monday morning quarterback.
Republicans have introduced legislation that will restrict the length of the governor’s executive orders in a state of emergency. One bill would require legislators to convene in a special legislative session if the governor wishes to extend a state of emergency after 30 days. Another bill would allow legislators to prevent an extension of a state of emergency.
It seems as though they believe that injecting 150 more politicians into the decision-making process during an emergency would yield better results for Hoosiers. One needs to look no further than Washington to see the problem with that line of thinking, where Congress went nearly eight months without passing legislation to combat the public health crisis or to help small-business owners and workers who had lost their jobs.
This is not to say I agreed with every decision Holcomb made during the pandemic. Spending $15 million on an unemployment hotline that didn’t really help Hoosiers receive the benefits they deserved was especially troubling. And he certainly could have solicited more feedback from legislators on his plan to disburse the $2.4 billion Indiana received in federal aid.
However, these differences of opinion don’t merit the political reactionary move to inject more politics into an already tense and challenging situation.
We can see the type of “solutions” a special session might yield from the bills we are working on during this pandemic session. We’ve spent time debating critical topics like whether Indianapolis will change its name, designating popcorn as the official state snack or trying to shut down Indianapolis’ bus system.
As legislators, we can and should be pragmatic and seek solutions. This can be done without a special session that will result in too many cooks being in an already hot kitchen. Hoosier lives are counting on leadership, not political gamesmanship.•
Moed is a Democrat who represents Indianapolis in the Indiana House of Representatives. Send comments to email@example.com.
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