IN Focus: Lawmakers cancel one-day special session, governor extends emergency orders

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INDIANAPOLIS – After a remarkable hours-long hearing at the Statehouse last week, lawmakers have now cancelled a special one-day session, originally aimed at ending the public health emergency in Indiana.

Though the issue has now been delayed to the January legislative session, GOP officials remain keen on ending the COVID-19 emergency orders declared by Governor Holcomb over 20 months ago.

“After further discussion with our senate colleagues and the Governor, we’ve decided to continue working on these issues through December and tackle legislation at the start of the regular session,” House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said in a statement. “House Republicans remain resolved to take quick action.”

Indiana Democrats welcomed the delay as they criticized Republican plans to tackle the issue outside of the regular process. Some lawmakers, like State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson), took direct aim at the legislature.

“I’m quite frankly concerned about why are we straying from the usual process we engage in,” Sen. Lanane said at the Tuesday hearing.

That sentiment was echoed by House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne), saying that the speed of the process was politically motivated and premature. He criticized Republican leaders for trying “to pass sweeping policy outside of normal processes and procedures.”

The cancellation of Monday’s session was announced hours before news broke of another concerning variant that now has world health leaders scrambling to study its potential global impact.

“This delay was the right thing to do and it is a good day when common sense prevails,” Rep. GiaQuinta said.

Indiana business leaders also gave their input on the legislation. Many were concerned over the limits on imposing vaccine mandates and the requirement for businesses to pay for an unvaccinated employee’s weekly testing requirements. These concerns were highlighted by Kevin Brinegar, President and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

“[The legislation] significantly discourages employers from requiring vaccinations,” Brinegar explained at the hearing.

Another important issue lawmakers will consider in January is a proposal that would combat learning loss in Hoosier students. Many students across Indiana have been affected by time lost in the classroom due to the pandemic.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 93% of households with school-age children dealt with virtual schooling during the pandemic. Now, studies from across the country are showing some students are behind at least one grade level in subjects like math and reading.

To measure the academic impact of COVID-19 disruptions, lawmakers are monitoring new state funding to help students catch up with their education. This includes watching the $150 million in grants given to community programs, and putting more of a focus on STEM subjects. Watch Statehouse Reporter Kristen Eskow’s report on learning loss in the video below.

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