The Journal Gazette
Saturday, October 16, 2021 1:00 am

Beck: County lacks power to ban mandates

But labels Biden move as 'overreach'

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

The Allen County commissioners said Friday they can't do anything about possible vaccine mandates – even if they'd like to.

Commissioners' President Rich Beck read a statement from the commissioners at the end of Friday's meeting, during which 13 local residents shared their opinions in opposition of vaccination mandates. Some residents drafted an ordinance they had asked the commissioners to consider a few weeks ago.

“On the matter of the proposed ordinance, we have been informed by our attorneys that the home rule does not provide the authority necessary to act in the fashion set out in the proposed ordinance,” he said.

Home rule, which is included in the state constitution, allows local government to have more authority over local matters on a case-by-case basis, but Beck said that doesn't apply to governing civil actions. The General Assembly recently passed a law that Beck said also limited commissioners when it comes to approving or disproving health orders during a state of emergency.

Beck criticized the vaccine mandate directives President Joe Biden gave the Department of Labor in September, saying the action “is extreme overreach and goes too far.”

“Like you, we are waiting to see if this mandate actually makes it out of Washington, D.C., and whether it actually becomes effective as there will undoubtedly be legal challenges and they may delay or even scuttle the federal government's action,” he said.

The commissioners don't believe any level of government should be able to enforce COVID-19 vaccines on people or businesses.

“We believe that people should be able to make decisions on these vaccines based on their own personal circumstances, conscience, religious beliefs and health provider advice,” Beck read from the statement. “Likewise, we believe the businesses should be free to make decisions that allow them to reach their goals and mission and to stay open and grow without undue government intrusion.”

Beck concluded the statement by saying the commissioners will take no further action related to vaccination mandates.

People in opposition of vaccine mandates have shared their opinions at city and county public meetings, as well as local school board meetings.

Earlier this year, the Fort Wayne City Council considered an ordinance against vaccine passports brought forward by Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th. The proposed ordinance failed with a 5-2 vote in June and a 4-4 vote in July.

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