During the COVID-19 pandemic, I've heard from many Hoosiers in Senate District 48 who are frustrated by the long-term restrictions on their livelihoods and their lack of recourse or voice in the matter.
To address this, I am sponsoring House Bill 1123, which would allow the General Assembly to play a more active role in the decision-making process during long-term statewide emergencies.
It makes sense, especially during emergencies that last several months, for Hoosiers to have all branches of their state government involved in decisions that could affect the lives of millions.
To ensure the governor is communicating with members of the General Assembly during disaster emergencies, HB 1123 would create the Legislative State of Emergency Advisory Group. This 10-member bipartisan group would consult with and advise the governor during emergencies that the Legislative Council determines to have statewide impact. The advisory group would then share information with other legislators about the emergency.
Additionally, if the governor declares a state of emergency that the Legislative Council determines has statewide impact, HB 1123 would authorize the Legislative Council to convene an emergency session of the General Assembly at their discretion. The emergency session could not last for more than 40 days.
Finally, under HB 1123, all federal stimulus dollars that the state can spend at its discretion would be placed in an Economic Stimulus Fund and be subject to legislative oversight.
In addition, my colleagues and I are working to pass additional legislation that would create an appeals process for local health department actions during emergencies; would allow compassionate visitation in nursing homes; would protect religious freedom during emergencies; and improve oversight of our elections.
There's a lot to be learned from how our community, state and nation reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to recover from this health and economic crisis, it's important we address how we can prepare for large scale emergencies in the future and ensure that the voice of the people is still represented when important decisions are being made.
HB 1123 recently passed the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures and will now move to the full Senate for further consideration. To learn more about legislation we're considering in response to the pandemic, you can check out our blog at IndianaSenateRepublicans.com/blog.