SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Proposed Covid-19 bills are making their way through the 2022 legislative session.
The latest one H.B. 182 would, if passed, limit a mayor’s emergency powers during a pandemic.
ABC4 reached out to both bill sponsor’s Utah State Representative Ryan Wilcox and Utah State Senator Kirk Cullimore and neither was available to comment Tuesday.
The text lays out how a chief executive officer of a municipality like a mayor or governor may not use emergency powers to respond to an epidemic a pandemic or another public health emergency.
“The conversation over what is appropriate for the government to require people to do and what is not appropriate for the government to require people to do is an ongoing debate that’s happened since the founding of government themselves,” said Utah State Senator Dan McCay.
The newest debate over covid involves leadership. HB 182 unveiled during the legislative session would prevent mayors in Utah from using their emergency powers during a pandemic. It’s sponsored by Senators Ryan Wilcox and Kirk Cullimore.
“Cities, I think it is questionable whether they have the expertise or should be given the expertise to rule on pandemics,” said Utah State Senate President Stuart Adams.
H.B. 182 also says state facilities like the Utah Capitol are not subject to local health orders.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall responded to H.B. 182 by tweeting her reaction:
“We are not surprised by H.B. 182 but urge the Legislature to promote good policy over politics when it comes to our residents’ health. The fact that H.B. 182 exempts state facilities from a science-based health order is exactly that type of reactive legislation that is so disappointing and a response to a toxic political climate.”
“It seems like health professionals and health departments, county health departments, and state health departments ought to be the one that is giving the advice for that,” said Adams.
We also reached out to the Salt Lake County Health Department to get its take on HB 182.
We were told the following:
“We can’t comment on pending legislation unless the board of health or county council takes a position and they have not yet.”