Harrison County commissioners tackle well being division oversight invoice | Information
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WV News) – Harrison County commissioners have said they do not endorse a bill requiring them to sign decisions from the local health department.
Senate Bill 12 would require district committees and other appointing bodies to approve all rules passed by local health officials within 30 days. Approval would be required before the rule could be implemented. The rule could only come into effect in the jurisdiction of the appointing body that approved it.
The bill would also allow county commissions and other appointing agencies to remove a member of the health committee for cause, require health departments to make a notice when a rule is adopted, promulgated or changed in the state register and on their website, and local Regulations require health departments to comply with guidelines developed by the state health officer for public health emergencies.
In Harrison County, the County Commission and Clarksburg City Council each appoint three members to the Health Committee that governs Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department. Therefore, both the Commission and Clarksburg City Council would vote on the health regulations.
The commission on Wednesday asked the county staff to write to the county’s delegation to the legislature stating that the commission did not endorse the legislation.
“Charleston stated that Harrison County is in favor of this legislation,” said County Administrator Willie Parker. “I don’t know where that came from.”
All three commissioners said they had not expressed their support for the bill.
“I don’t want that,” said Commissioner Patsy Trecost, who is also one of the county’s appointees for the Harrison County Board of Health.
The Board of Health has experts from diverse medical backgrounds who are part of the health industry, he said.
“It’s more important that they make decisions about health needs across the county,” said Trecost.
According to Mayor Ryan Kennedy, Clarksburg City Council did not discuss the bill or take an official position.
Kennedy spoke only for himself and not for the council as a whole, saying he supported it.
“I prefer it. I don’t know about the majority of the council, ”he said. “Personally, I like the fact that it makes unaccountable bureaucrats accountable to someone who must be elected by the people of the county or town.”
Different versions of the bill were passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate last week, so the bill will be sent back to the Senate. Senators can approve changes made by parliament or start working out the differences.
Senate Health and Human Resources Committee chairman Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, said the bill was in response to “sometimes tremendous, rampant encroachments on the rights of businesses and people” in the state.
“This bill did not ignite spontaneously. This bill came about because there were a number of issues that the legislature was made aware of, ”Maroney said.
Republicans argued that the bill would give citizens a greater voice in the decision-making process by ensuring that the decisions of unelected health officials are approved by elected officials who are accountable to the people.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Health and Human Resources, Jeffrey Pack, R-Raleigh, described the bill as “inherently democratic”.
However, Democrats argued that the bill will include public health decisions to save expert lives and put political pressure on the process.
Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, said the bill is to “take public health out of the hands of experts and give it to people like me, county officials. The pressure is enormous. There is not a bit of pressure on the district commissions. The pressure is enormous to do what the few voices want, whether it is to allow smoking in restaurants or other numerous health problems. Elected officials are under pressure not to make the best decision for the county’s public health, but to make the best decision for their political future. “
Romano was previously a commissioner in Harrison County.
“Didn’t we see what happened when we put public health in the hands of people with a political future?” he asked. “We have 500,000 dead in this country due to the random patchwork of methods of fighting the pandemic, because every state had its own method, every state had its own politician in charge, every state had its own political future in jeopardy.”
The Senate passed its version of Senate Law 12 on Tuesday with 21 votes to 13. Two Republicans joined all Democrats to vote against the move. District 12 senators were split over the decision, with Senator Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, voting for and Romano against.
The House version of the bill was passed by a large 63-33 margin on Friday, despite 10 Republicans teaming up with all of the Democrats to vote no. Four Republicans were absent.
All Harrison County delegates voted for the bill, with the exception of Del. Clay Riley, R-Harrison, who was absent.
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