Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb renewed his emergency COVID executive rule for the 19th time Thursday, bolstering calls for Indiana’s legislature to step in. Indiana U.S. Sen. Mike Braun joined state Attorney General Todd Rokita Thursday in calling for the state legislature to join others around the nation in allowing citizens to manage their own risks.
“Our Founders never intended for our liberties to put on hold at the whims of unelected bureaucrats and so-called scientific experts. It’s time to end this perpetual state of emergency and let Hoosiers be responsible for their own safety. Federal, state and local governments should be focused on educating citizens about vaccines, therapeutics, treatments and best practices to stay safe if you are vulnerable to severe illness, not new ways to restrict our rights,” Braun said in a statement to The Federalist.
Holcomb’s lengthy extensions of one-man rule make Hoosiers subject to constantly shifting COVID regulations such as school masks and forcing tens of thousands of healthy children to miss school for weeks at a time in quarantine. Earlier this week, a group of parents sued to restrain Holcomb’s legislatively unchecked power, arguing it’s throwing their kids into a third chaotic school year in a row against scientific evidence, reason, and their constitutional rights.
One of the parents, Mike Bell, appeared on Fox Business this week to discuss the suit and the impacts of Holcomb’s orders on his school district.
“These are healthy children, these are kids that are not sick, and they are being restricted from attending school or participating in sports and being around their friends, things that children should be allowed to do, and through no fault of their own,” Bell said.
The parents pointed out that children are the least at-risk of danger from COVID-19, yet under Holcomb’s executive rule are subject to the strictest restrictions. Myriad peer-reviewed studies in respected medical journals affirm that children are more at risk from influenza than from COVID-19, spread COVID less than adults do, and are harmed by being forced to wear masks in schools, and that school mask mandates such as Holcomb’s don’t reduce COVID transmission.
While Indiana did not publicly release its state test results from spring 2021, the results were revealed to administrators in private. They showed devastating effects on Hoosier children of Holcomb’s mandated school closures and quarantine chaos. Usually once children fall behind in school, they never recover, and the resulting damage to a state economy and culture are enormous. Research shows student test scores predict their lifetime earnings.
In punting on this issue, Indiana’s legislature is setting up their state for generations of economic and personal struggle. But many of these lawmakers will be out of office by then.
While Holcomb insists Hoosiers must obey constantly changing and irrational COVID rules made by unelected bureaucrats in his and the Biden administration to receive federal dollars, this also puts Republican-led Indiana behind numerous other states that aren’t making the same calculation. This summer, Montana, Georgia, Maryland, and Missouri allowed their states of emergency to expire. Arkansa’s governor ended his state’s a few days ago, saying he “didn’t need any additional powers to respond to it.” Texas, North Dakota, Florida, and others have also returned to allowing their citizens to manage their own decisions.
Meanwhile, Indiana’s House Speaker Todd Huston, who this week presided over redistricting himself into an even safer seat, made it more difficult for two bills to end the emergency rule by referring both to the rules committee instead of to the floor for a vote. More than one-third of state representatives, equaling more than half of the House’s Republicans, have signed on to Rep. J.D. Prescott’s bill.
“I think the legislature can act and should act to just end it. And that would be the endpoint,” said state Rep. Curt Nisly (R), the sponsor of the other bill to end Holcomb’s emergency rule.
Rules chair Rep. Dan Leonard, who is in control of whether these bills move now, has said he also wants federal money. Since federal dollars are also tied to COVID vaccination programs now, and just over half of eligible Hoosiers have taken the injection, Holcomb’s unrelenting executive rule could also be a tacit strong-arm of Hoosiers to take the jab.
Indiana Republicans have so far also failed to give private-sector workers legal protections against employers forcing them into unwanted medical choices. Pharmaceutical and health-care interests have long dominated state politics. This track record belies Republican claims to oppose “pen and phone” lawlessness from the Obama and now Biden administrations.
The majority of states do not require masks in schools, according to the Burbio tracker. Holcomb’s rules tell schools they should quarantine healthy children for two weeks after 15 minutes of contact with a COVID-positive person if they do not require all kids to wear masks. Some districts in the state are requiring both.
Huston, Leonard, Senate Pro Tem Rodric Bray, and Majority Floor Leader Sen. Mark Messmer did not return multiple requests for comment. Leonard’s press secretary was contacted late in the day Thursday, the others Wednesday morning.
“What I can tell you is that there are lots of people in Indiana that are interested in running for office” over this pent-up frustration state lawmakers have long hesitated to relieve, Nisly told The Federalist. “State representative and school board are the things I’m hearing the most.”
Indiana lawmakers could choose to address the issue today by staying in session to vote on these bills instead of adjourning after redistricting legislation passes this afternoon.