2 Knox County commissioners co-sponsor resolution to limit power of board of health

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Two Knox County commissioners have co-sponsored a resolution to limit the power of the Knox County Board of Health, according to a document obtained by WATE 6 On Your Side.

The resolution is sponsored by Commissioner Kyle Ward and Commissioner Justin Biggs. The main focus of the bill is to limit the board of health to make decisions only within the scope of the Tennessee Pledge.

“I appreciate the efforts of the Knox county board of health, however, I do think the critical decisions that impact all the citizens should be made by those who are elected and we’re elected by the people,” said Commissioner Justin Biggs.

Biggs says he has gotten hundreds of emails from residents wanting the board of health to be dissolved, but he says that’s not the aim of this resolution. He says this document is a compromise.

“This resolution that commissioner ward and myself have put together I feel like is that happy medium resolution that shows people that Knox County Commissioners Biggs and Ward are making an effort in the right direction to get us on the right path,” Biggs said.

In the resolution, it says “Whereas, the Governor has transferred his emergency powers to six county Boards of Health.”

One of those six Boards of Health was in Knox County.

The resolution goes onto to say ” Whereas, 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 and officials and boards answerable to elected officials.”

The two commissioners are asking, in the resolution, that “any regulation made by the Knox County Board of Health which are more stringent than those of Governor Lee and the Tennessee Department of Health shall be limited by and controlled by the executive order of the State of Tennessee.”

It also states that “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.”

The most recent mandate by the Board of Health was a vote Wednesday for a nightly 11 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. That mandate went into affect Friday night.

Commissioner Ward released a statement on the resolution.

“Decisions critically impacting the economic, health, and psychological welfare of citizens do not need to be made by appointed groups. These decisions should be made by elected officials in consultation with trusted advisors, ” said Ward. “The Knox County Board of Health is comprised of outstanding men and women. However, they should not create policy which impacts individuals’ freedoms.”

The resolution will be discussed on Monday, September 21, at the Knox County Commission workshop and is expected to be voted on the following Monday at the commission meeting.

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