INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The Indiana Attorney General vigorously defended Governor Eric Holcomb’s emergency powers in response to a restaurant lawsuit against his ordering that masks be worn in restaurants to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
This defense of Holcomb’s actions comes despite Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita, who took office in January, previously called for the governor’s authority to be curtailed.
Yergys State Road BBQ in Bluffton filed a lawsuit against the Wells County Health Department, Holcomb and the state in December after it was closed for violating face coverage requirements and capacity limits.
The lawsuit alleges that the District Health Ordinance’s closure of the restaurant was based on unconstitutional orders from the governor and that Holcomb was not empowered to order masks to be worn without the backing of lawmakers. The city restaurant, about 20 miles south of Fort Wayne, adheres to the order to cause “unjust violation of Yergy’s basic civil rights, liberties, and property rights.”
However, the Attorney General argues that based on “broad, clear and unambiguous language” of the Indian Emergency Powers Act, the General Assembly “intended to give the executive the power to protect Hoosiers through a declaration of emergency”.
“The governor has performed his duties adequately and necessary under the United States and Indiana Constitutions and the Indiana Code to address an unprecedented emergency that affects not only Indiana and the United States but the world as well. Prosecutors wrote in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed on Monday.
The attorney general pointed to a U.S. district judge’s decision in December denying a motion by more than 15 Indianapolis bars seeking to end coronavirus restrictions imposed by Mayor Joe Hogsett.
The bars claimed the orders were against the state and the U.S. Constitutions and caused irreparable damage to businesses. The court ruled that the companies did not provide a legal basis for an injunction related to local health regulations and denied the request.
The Republican governor’s use of executive ordinances, which closed many non-material businesses early and now includes the nationwide mask mandate first issued in July, has been complained by many conservatives across the state, protesting his authority exceeded.
Holcomb has issued nearly 60 coronavirus-related injunctions since last March under the state’s Emergency Act, which was revised in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some have suggested steps such as: B. Limiting emergency action by the governor to 30 days without legislative support, arguing that this is for temporary situations such as floods, tornadoes or terrorist acts, although epidemics are among the 29 situations established by law.
Despite the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Rokita did not vigorously defend Holcomb’s campaign actions. Rokita said he wants to work with lawmakers to revise the state emergency law, which he didn’t think was meant “for anything about the duration of this pandemic.”
State lawmakers are currently debating House and Senate bills that would restrict a governor’s power to impose emergency restrictions like mask rules and business closings. The divergent proposals would show ways to either force the governor to invite the legislature to a special session during a prolonged emergency or to give the legislature new powers to take such action.
Holcomb and others have questioned whether the Republican legislature’s proposals are legal under the state constitution.
Half a dozen senior Holcomb officials last week continued to defend its executive actions, telling a Senate committee that the governor’s ability to address emergencies quickly was vital to the state’s response to coronavirus. Limitations on these powers could hamper current state progress and delay urgent responses to future public health emergencies or natural disasters.
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