The Utah State Legislature is contemplating a bill that may limit the executive branch’s powers throughout “long-term emergencies” with out “hindering rapid response” or disrupting the executive department or Utah Department of Health’s “ability to respond to short-term emergencies.”
Senate Bill 195, sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, would place “checks on broad, restrictive orders issued by public health officials,” resembling well being orders that “apply broadly to groups or places” or “enforce isolations, quarantines or stay-at-home orders, executive control over public gatherings or property or closes schools, theaters or other gathering places,” in accordance to a summary of the laws.
The bill additionally would give state lawmakers and county governing our bodies the power to terminate “an order of constraint or restriction issued by the state or local health departments,” in addition to “a local emergency declaration or emergency action of a city or county chief executive.”
Additionally, native well being departments can be required to present discover to a county legislative physique earlier than declaring a public well being emergency or issuing an order of constraint, and can be prohibited from issuing an order of constraint “without approval of the relevant county chief executive.”
The bill follows up on legislation handed and signed into regulation in 2020 requiring Utah’s governor to seek the advice of with a “legislative pandemic response team” earlier than taking an executive motion “in response to an epidemic or pandemic.”
During a press convention on Wednesday, Vickers advised reporters that there have been “good and bad” elements to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including that lawmakers have “tried to learn from the process as we’ve gone through.”
“And one thing we’ve learned through that process is that we did need to make some modifications to our emergency powers legislation and how we react to these long-term emergency situations,” the senator mentioned.
House Majority Assistant Whip Val Peterson, R-Orem, who’s the co-sponsor of S.B. 195, mentioned the intent of the bill was to limit executive powers “in such a way that we don’t hamstring them at all, that they still have the ability to respond to any emergency that they might encounter and then make sure that we have the appropriate checks and balances.”
The bill would make clear that the present $10,000 most high-quality that the Utah Department of Health can levy for violation of a well being order “is applicable only to businesses” and would create a $150 most high-quality for people.
“We did realize during the recent pandemic with COVID that there was some uncertainty about this $10,000 fine,” Vickers mentioned, including that “the intent was just for businesses, but there was a lot of fear and anxiety that it was meant for individuals, and so we felt like we needed to clarify that.”
Four people and two companies have been every fined $10,000 by the Utah County Health Department on Feb. 8 for allegedly organizing and selling a Halloween celebration close to Utah Lake that violated well being tips.
The bill additionally addresses “religious protections” by prohibiting the governor or a well being division “from placing a more restrictive order of constraint on a religious gathering than on other public gatherings.”
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, mentioned she appreciated that Republicans included Democratic lawmakers within the dialogue about limiting emergency powers and added that the bill continues to be a piece in progress.
Vickers mentioned Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson was concerned in discussions and that he anticipated “to see the governor support and sign the bill.”
The bill is scheduled to be mentioned throughout a Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee assembly on Thursday at 8 a.m.
Connor Richards covers authorities, the atmosphere and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He might be reached at email@example.com and 801-344-2599.