The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 14, 2021 4:30 pm

Lack of masks in Statehouse causes concern

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Dozens of people testifying on a vaccination bill flouted the Statehouse mask requirement this week – even causing others who wanted to speak on the bill to leave because of health concerns.

That situation is causing legislative leaders to work with Gov. Eric Holcomb and Capitol Police about how to make the process and building safe.

But no one seems to know what – if any – penalty there is in the building for refusing to wear a mask.

"We don't want to be ejecting people from the Statehouse in any way shape or form," Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said Thursday.

Senate Bill 74 was heard by the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee and would allow people to refuse employer-mandated vaccines for reasons of personal "conscience." Federal law already allows exemptions for medical conditions and religion.

Many of those who testified against the bill initially wore masks when entering the building – where police and security are stationed – but took them off in the halls, committee room and bathroom.

Bray said they were told by staff they needed to wear them, but he said interns and staff are not the people to enforce the rule.

He also said people were congregating in the testimony room – which is supposed to largely be empty – and talking loudly when they disagreed with what the person testifying was saying.

Bray said the committee chairman had trouble keeping order from a separate room. Some committees have the members in one room and the public in another room testifying virtually.

He, House Speaker Todd Huston and Gov. Eric Holcomb are discussing possible changes – including having Capitol Police in the rooms to enforce the rules.

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