Virus Outbreak Indiana

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb prepares to host a virtual media briefing in the Governor's Office at the Statehouse to provide updates on COVID-19 and its impact on Indiana.

(The Center Square) – The state legislature, not the governor of Indiana, has the authority to require residents to wear a face covering in public, Attorney General Curtis Hill said in a new opinion.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is requiring that all state residents wear a mask or other face covering in public places effective Monday, July 27.

But Hill says that mandate does not have the force of law.

“Without properly delegated authority from the General Assembly, the proposed order would not have the force and effect of law,” Hill said. “The General Assembly would need to specifically and clearly allow for a mask mandate by law.”

Hill issued the opinion after several Republican lawmakers asked him about Holcomb's mandate.

While Indiana’s governor has the authority to restrict business operations under the state’s Emergency Management and Disaster Law, it “does not provide that a governor may issue a mandate on wearing masks,” Hill said.

And charging individuals who don't follow the mask mandate with a crime with a potential for jail time and a fine is an abuse of the governor's authority, according to the attorney general.

“The governor has taken conduct that has not been specifically criminalized by the General Assembly and unilaterally declared it as criminal,” Hill said. “The General Assembly has not clearly delegated this law-making authority to the governor, and cannot delegate law-making power.”