SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson expressed that her primary issues have not been addressed and she remains opposed to the bill in its current form.
This is after Mayor Wilson says she engaged with State legislators regarding Senate Bill 195.
Mayor Wilson said in a press release that her concerns center around the provisions that allow the state legislature to intervene in a local emergency. “Legislative bodies manage budgets and make policies. Chief executives manage the staff and assets that are necessary to protect the health and safety of the public as well as private property,” stated Mayor Wilson. “Additionally, health departments serve a vital role during health emergencies given their specific expertise, and that expertise should not be ignored or undermined.”
Mayor Wilson added that she believes this bill is an overcorrection to issues that arose during the COVID pandemic and “rather than rush a bill this session”, Mayor Wilson says she favors a deliberative process over the coming year to address concerns.
On Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Council voted 8-1, to refer this bill to interim which allows for a more complete and thoughtful review process.
Mayor Wilson says she supports a robust public debate that includes citizens and elected officials addressing lessons learned from COVID-19. She also believes certain changes to the Federal role in future emergencies should be considered. “The appropriate time for these discussions is in the ‘recovery’ phase of the emergency rather than during the emergency itself,” says Mayor Wilson.
While there are many areas of concern in the bill for Mayor Wilson, one of her main issues is the provision that allows a legislative body to override a local health action given that such a right could result in both a distraction and a reduction in efficiency during a critical moment of emergency response, thereby creating unnecessary risk to the local community. “This bill impairs the ability of an executive to nimbly and swiftly manage an emergency,” says Mayor Wilson.
According to a news release, the bill also allows the state legislature to end a local emergency after 30-days, which takes away local control.
Officials say Salt Lake County is an urban center with incredibly complex risks that simply do not exist at the same scale in many other counties in our state. It is inappropriate for legislators serving all areas of the state to undermine executive authority at the local level. Salt Lake County has a robust and established system for the management of both general and health-related emergencies.
By prematurely ending a local emergency, Mayor Wilson says she remains concerned that this bill could impair the ability of state and local authorities to recover federal emergency (FEMA) funding. The result could be literally leaving millions of dollars of desperately needed emergency funding on the table.