Certain counties may see the roles of their health boards change in the event of another public health emergency. According to a bill making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly, county mayors should retain the exclusive authority to establish health-related mandates and regulations, while health boards and committees should only serve to advise them. The proposed measures would only apply to counties with certain population counts. Accordingly, the bill would affect Shelby, Knox, Davidson, Hamilton, Sullivan, and Madison counties.
State Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) introduced the bill in November, as Chris Butler with The Tennessee Star reported previously. In a press release, Zachary explained that only elected representatives are accountable to those they serve – therefore, only elected representatives should have the final say in public health emergencies.
“This legislation reduces bureaucracy and ensures accountability with constituents by moving unelected boards into advisory roles, which will make responses to health emergencies more constituent across the state,” said Zachary.
The bill has also received support from Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). In that same press release, Sexton concurred with Zachary’s assessment that unelected bureaucrats shouldn’t have the decision-making power of elected officials.
Sexton also noted last October as certain counties reopened that the counties addressed by the bill have proven to have slower recovery and higher unemployment rates.
“Traveling across Tennessee, I have heard from many people and businesses in our larger counties who are all frustrated with the lack of communication from these unelected bureaucrats,” stated Sexton. “Their restrictive policies only continue to hamper our statewide recovery efforts and cause further damage to the Tennessee business community.”
The Knox County Commission has also proposed devolving their county board of health from a regulatory body to an advisory body. They delayed their final vote last month, and are expected to revisit the matter at the end of April.
Both versions of the bill will appear before the Health Subcommittee and Health and Welfare Committee, respectively. The House Health Subcommittee is scheduled to review the bill next Tuesday; the bill hasn’t been placed on the calendar for the Senate Health and Welfare Committee yet.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “State Rep. Jason Zachary” by State Rep. Jason Zachary