Revamped bill would severely limit government’s ability to restrict business, church operations

A Republican lawmaker is seeking to severely limit the restrictions that state and local governments can impose on businesses and churches as COVID-19 continues to spread across Indiana.

As introduced, House Bill 1519, authored by Republican Bob Morris of Fort Wayne, would only have prevented the governor, state agencies, and local government units, including local health departments, from restricting the hours a business may operate.

But, on Monday, the Indiana House Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee he chairs approved five amendments that widen the scope of the legislation.

The new version of the bill would prevent any state agency or political subdivision from regulating hospital services, the number of people allowed at an event or a private business and how patrons are greeted or served at restaurants and other businesses.

It would also restrict government officials from limiting the size of church gatherings, requiring church goers to wear face coverings and ordering private schools and churches to close during a pandemic.

“It’s not government’s role,” Morris said.

The committee did not vote on the bill. And several lawmakers expressed concerns about what the impact could be of eliminating the state and local governments’ ability to impose restrictions during a pandemic.

“I think that for this period of time to abandon these safeguards is very unwise,” State Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, said.

Morris, however, said government doesn’t have the right to tell anyone at church what they can and cannot wear. He also questioned the effectiveness of mask wearing.

“In reality, we really aren’t sure if masks work,” Morris said.

Morris said the legislation is in response to the restrictions governments have imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he’s also thinking long-term, because he’s concerned about how long the pandemic will last or when the next one will come.

The restrictions would apply to executive orders issued by the governor and apply to any mandates in place after April 30, 2021.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, also a Republican, has imposed capacity and other restrictions on social gatherings and businesses, including retailers, restaurants, tourist attractions and event venues, since last spring. The restrictions have at times also applied to churches.

His orders have also always allowed local governments to impose more stringent restrictions—something health departments in Marion County and several other counties have regularly done.

At several times during the pandemic, Holcomb also ordered hospitals to postpone non-emergency or elective procedures as a way to free up space for COVID-19 patients.

Holcomb started easing the restrictions in May, and he lifted nearly all restrictions by the fall.

Under Holcomb’s current executive order, in counties with the highest level of community spread of the virus, social gatherings are limited to either 25 or 50 people and restaurants and bars are required to space tables six feet apart from each other.

The order also requires Hoosiers to wear masks in public, indoor places.

But the current order does not limit capacity in businesses, such as retailers or restaurants. It also allows local health departments to permit events with larger capacities. For example, the Marion County Health Department allowed the Indianapolis Colts to have as many as 12,500 fans at games last year.

Representatives of two catering businesses testified in support of the amended legislation, arguing that the guidelines that have been imposed by Holcomb don’t make sense because a small restaurant can have more individuals inside than can an event venue with more square feet.

Bill Nicholls, president and co-owner of the Ritz Charles in Carmel, said the company has lost about $5 million in revenue during the pandemic and has drastically reduced its staff.

He said he doesn’t understand why a restaurant can operate at full capacity, while the Ritz Charles is limited to 25 people.

“I need some better factual evidence,” Nicholls said.

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18 thoughts on “Revamped bill would severely limit government’s ability to restrict business, church operations

  1. “We really aren’t sure if masks work”.

    As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    1. If you really think a face diaper that you can blithely take off when you’re seated at a restaurant–within six feet of friends outside your bubble, while eating–has some measurable benefit, you’re the one getting suckered. But I know you’re far too proud ever to admit it. And you support authoritarianism, so there’s that.

      The medical face masks we can purchase at the store even say, “Does not prevent the transmission of COVID-19”. Sure, they have to say this as a liability waiver, but they wouldn’t say it if it weren’t at least partially or mostly true.

      I cannot imagine how utterly infuriating it most be to the little Napoleons that we will continue to question their ridiculous narratives. Exactly zero grannies are being saved by driving huge portions of the population into poverty.

      “It is far easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” ~Mark Twain

    2. Yes, going to a restaurant is a terrible idea. Taking your mask off in one is an even worse idea. Support a local business and get carry out, and tell the government to get off their arses and support them with government aid like they are doing everywhere else in the world.

      They have to say the masks don’t protect against COVID because there is no time to run the study required to say that . You can’t just slap a label like that on a package without rigorous study … which takes more time than we have.

      You’re projecting on the authoritarian nonsense, but then again most Trump supporters are blithely unaware of their hypocrisy.

      Did you have a point here? I dunk on Bob all day long here and you’re not much harder.

    3. No, Joe, you made the point quite well for me already. Thanks. You’re a textbook case study in motivated reasoning. The Dunning-Kruger effect captured in human form.

    4. I mean, I could listen to people who’ve studied infectious diseases their whole life … or people who think so much of their own thoughts they won’t even use their first name and initial.
      .
      Get better news sources. Epoch Times ain’t one.

  2. Properly worn masks are effective; improperly worn masks are not effective. Face coverings (not the same as masks) whether worn properly or improperly are not highly effective. The science is clear on these facts.

  3. Someone who says ““In reality, we really aren’t sure if masks work,” shouldn’t be involved in any sort of rule making relating to public health.

  4. “I need some better factual evidence,” Nicholls said.

    It’s called science… Sorry you lost $5M in revenue. Hasn’t stopped renovations, so you seem to be OK. Small businesses have lost far more than revenue, ie employees, life savings, decades of hard work. People have lost their lives.

    Where are the ethics committees with this bill? Obviously it is being presented for personal gain.

    1. The Ritz Charles is hardly a multi-national conglomerate. They can’t exactly migrate their catering function to Zoom sessions on laptops the way the pampered, finger-wagging consultant class can.

      I guess the “drastically reduced staff” is just collateral damage, right? Those dozens of people who lost their jobs should just suck it up for the greater good? What’s YOUR sacrifice, David?

      “Science” says absolutely nothing about a face diaper, and the correlation between social distancing and stopping the spread is weak at best, probably nonexistent. Far more potent is the correlation between lockdowns and driving formerly solvent people into severe economic hardship, which means they can’t support their vulnerable elders. This is 300% politics.

      If stringent enforcement measures were so effective, why has California and Los Angeles in particular (which has had some of the strictest enforcement in the world, let alone the country) been experiencing such an usual spike in cases over the winter? They don’t even have a harsh winter climate compared to most of the country.

      I’m sure you’ll have an answer for this. Y’all always do.

    1. Acting responsibly might also include not destroying the lives and livelihoods of the young and healthy for the sake of a disease that overwhelmingly threatens the old. Not sure what the median age of COVID death in the US is, but in the UK it’s 82, which is basically in line with the median death rate in the country before COVID. Is it sensible or responsible to upend huge swaths of society for a disease that disproportionately affects a certain age group that you can easily work to protect? Of course it isn’t, but I’m a terrible person for daring to suggest it. Let me keep being terrible.

      Judging from the homicide rates, suicide rates, vehicular accident rates, and untreated cancer deaths over the past year, all this “acting responsibly” is working wonders on keeping basic social cohesion firm and intact…wouldn’t you say?

    2. Destroying the economy is a choice. Remind us all, why did Senate Republicans do nothing for the last half of 2020? Where was their aid proposal to help the American economy? Why did America refuse to do anything for its citizens unlike the rest of the world? It’s because of nonsense like this, that if you just pretend there is no virus, everything will be fine. That the issue is the restrictions, not the virus. That’s nonsense.

      It’s real simple – A lot of people will not participate in the economy until the virus is under control. Hence people will not have jobs until the virus is under control. The virus is the problem, not the restrictions.

      Meanwhile there are some long haulers I’d love for you to have answers for. Perfectly healthy people before the virus who now have long lasting health issues. I’m sure you have an answer for them, like “suck it up, buttercup”, or maybe “Thoughts and prayers”.

    3. Yes, Joe, and there are long-haulers who get gangrene from an untreated splinter and are forced to amputate. We don’t go around wearing gardening gloves everywhere we go to protect from splinters.

      Why are you rigid collectivists so eager to make everyone so weak, enfeebled, and risk averse?

    4. In part, I’d rather not pay for their health care and disability claims the rest of their life, for one, when they can’t work the rest of their lives. And for those who don’t make it, their social security survivor benefits.
      .
      Guess I’m one of those crazy pro-lifers for whom my regard for human life doesn’t end when a baby exits the birth canal.
      .
      It’s very simple. Write people a check, they stay inside, they stay healthy. We all get vaccinated, we go back to work, life is back to normal. Except a lot of us will think less of the anti-maskers like Bob Morris and Curt Nisly and John Jacob. They’re stuck being judged for their lunacy for the rest of their lives.

  5. If the Indiana AIDs outbreak back 2015 happened today, how would this legislation impact the state and local response? Let’s ponder other scenarios where we are tying an appropriate public health response in the name of “freedom”.

    1. Why haven’t you moved to Illinois, Michael? Numbskull evil, hillbilly Republicans haven’t been in charge there for decades, and look how much better off they are than we Hoosiers. NOT

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