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KCHD officials express concern with resolution to limit power of BOH

The commissioners expressed that they feel the power delegated to health officials is unconstitutional.
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Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 5:43 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 2:17 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Dr. Martha Buchanan with the Knox County Health Department called a resolution to limit the power of the Board of Health, “concerning” during a Tuesday press conference.

Buchanan said the resolution is concerning due to the Board of Health’s expertise on the current pandemic. Buchanan noted giving power to the commission “could be challenging.”

According to documents obtained by WVLT News, Commissioners Justin Biggs and Kyle Ward both requested the resolution which was written up by the Knox County Law Director’s Office.

The resolution seeks to “regulate the conduct and affairs of the residents of Knox County” by limiting the power granted to the Board of Health via Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Orders.

As the ongoing pandemic moves towards month 7 since Gov. Lee declared a State of Emergency in Tennessee, Commissioners Biggs and Ward feel the non-elected Board of Health members have had too much power in the decisions made for the constituents.

The commissioners expressed that they feel the power delegated to health officials is unconstitutional.

“The Governor’s delegation of authority to a board that is not answerable to the public or its elected officials is contrary to the federal and state constitutions which vest all powers only in elected officials and boards answerable to elected officials”, the resolution reads.

Although the commissioners do state they feel the health board is making decisions with ‘good intentions’ for the public, they say “those good intentions are not along enough to uphold governmental action against a constitutional challenge”.

“The greatest threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arises when the ends are laudable, and the intent is good-especially in a time of emergency," the document concludes.

Knox Co. Commission members are expected to talk about this resolution in their upcoming Work Session on Monday, September 21 at 5:00 p.m.

The Resolution seeks the following to be put in order:

1. Knox County Shall be governed, hereafter, by the substantive Executive Orders of Governor Lee related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Any regulations promulgated by the Knox County Board of Health which are more stringent than those of Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Health shall be limited by and controlled by the Executive Orders of the State of Tennessee.

3.It shall be the policy of Knox County to not arrest, cite or criminally prosecute Knox County citizens for failure to comply with an order of the Board of Health.

4. Knox County hereby adopts “Tennessee Pledge” as set forth by Governor Lee.

You can read the full resolution here.

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