Utah Lawmakers Plan To Discuss Limiting Authority Of Local Health Orders, Again | KUER 90.1

Utah Lawmakers Plan To Discuss Limiting Authority Of Local Health Orders, Again

May 15, 2020

After a failed attempt to limit local governments’ authority over stay at home orders during April’s special session, Utah lawmakers plan to try again. 

A bill introduced in the virtual session would have allowed the governor to modify or veto local health orders and required elected officials, not health departments, to be the ones to issue them. But the bill received a wave of pushback from people who thought it gave local governments more power. 

When the Political Subdivisions Interim Committee meets in June, Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, one of the committee’s chairs, said reviving that concept will be a top priority. 

“We have the statutes authorize these appointed officials to make these extraordinary decisions,” Handy said. “This should be something that should be left in the hands of those who were elected.”

The lobbying groups Utah Association of Counties and Utah League of Cities and Towns both supported the failed legislation. 

“It found the right balance between the governor's authority, the health expertise of local health departments and the decision making authority by local elected officials.” said Cameron Diehl, executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns. 

Rep. Handy said he expects legislation in next year’s general session aimed at repealing the ability of local governments to issue their own stay at home orders.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson