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Bill sent to Governor Holcomb that limits governor's emergency authority

Chris Garten sits on a stage at a conference. Garten is a White man with brown hair, wearing a gray suit, white shirt and red tie.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Sen. Chris Garten (R-Charlestown) is the author of SB 234, which blocks the governor from renewing statewide disaster declarations without legislative approval.

It’s now up to Gov. Eric Holcomb whether to sign a bill into law that will restrict his power — and that of his successors — from extending statewide disaster emergency declarations.

SB 234, given final approval by the Senate Thursday, is seen by some as a reaction to Republicans’ continued frustration at Holcomb’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Right now, the governor can declare a disaster for 30 days and renew it, a month at a time, without any limit. Such declarations trigger the governor’s emergency powers, which can be quite broad.

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The bill headed to his desk would now allow the governor to declare a statewide emergency for 60 days. But renewing it would require authorization by the General Assembly.

Some Democrats worry the measure could put access to federal relief dollars in jeopardy, since they’re typically tied to state disaster declarations.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.