This pandemic is unlike anything any of the members of State and Local Government has seen or could prepare for. Although I voted Yes on HB0007, I would like to clarify that I am not condemning nor blaming the Knox County Health Board for the actions they took last year. I have the utmost respect for the professionals on this board and Dr. Buchanan.
The events of the past year were uncharted territory, and both our County and State were unprepared on how to respond. I initially had planned on voting No. However, I voted Yes because I believe that the amendments that were added to this bill by both Rep. Terry and Rep. Zachary properly addressed my main concerns with the legislation.
The legislation, as it was originally introduced, was too broad. I feared it would have severe unintended consequences on the Health Departments in each of these independent counties. With the addition of the two amendments, it narrowed the scope to only affect the 4 independent health boards in the State of Tennessee. The legislation, as amended, does not affect the Health Director or Health Department, it only affects Health Boards. If it is signed into law by Governor Lee, their need in our County will not be eliminated. This bill merely eliminates a health board's ability to overrule the will of the elected County Executive and their ability to impose punitive charges on those who do not follow the guidelines they put forward. With that being said, they can still advise the County Executive on what actions to take to prevent the spread of a disease during a pandemic.
This legislation is not perfect nor is it in a place where I feel that we will be prepared for the next global pandemic. I plan on working with my colleagues and hope to take a deeper dive into this code of law this fall and will try to devise a plan in which both the County Executive and the Health Board can work together to ensure the safety of citizens in their respective counties.