House Bill 33 — District boards of health

House Bill 33 — District boards of health

by
Parrish Miller
January 26, 2021

Bill Description: House Bill 33 puts some sideboards on the actions and authority of the state's seven District Boards of Health. 

Rating: +3

Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?

House Bill 33 amends Section 39-418, Idaho Code, to allow that "Any person adversely affected by an action, a decision, or an order of a district board of health may request that the board of county commissioners of the county in which such person resides review the action, decision, or order. The board of county commissioners, upon such request, may by majority vote either decline to further consider the request or, upon consideration, affirm or overturn the action, decision, or order."

This effectively gives county commissioners veto power over the actions, decisions and orders of the District Board of Health. It should be noted that each health district includes multiple counties, however, so the county commissioners in a single county will only be able to overturn an action, decision, or order within their own county, not within the entire district. 

One curious element of this new language is that it only gives county commissioners the authority to "affirm or overturn" an action, decision, or order. It does not allow them to modify it. 

Giving elected county commissioners the authority to overturn orders enacted by district boards of health, which are often run by individuals not elected by the people, is an important step back toward constitutional governance. 

(+1)

House Bill 33 amends Section 56-1003, Idaho Code, to limit the duration of an "order of isolation or quarantine," issued under the authority of the State Department of Health and Welfare, to a maximum of 30 days unless its extension beyond 30 days is approved by the relevant board of county commissioners or, if the order is limited to a city or portion of a city, the city council.

Like the other changes made by this bill, this is a positive step that could be improved upon by limiting the authority of government even further. Specifically, the definition of an "order of isolation or quarantine" ought to be updated to make it clear that such orders can be issued only for sick and contagious individuals, never for healthy people. This bill does not make this much-needed change. 

(+1)

Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?

House Bill 33 amends Section 39-419, Idaho Code, to reduce the act of violating a health district rule or order from a misdemeanor to an infraction for first and second offenses. These infractions will carry fines of up to $50 for individuals and $300 for associations, corporations, or an officer of an association or corporation, acting on its behalf. 

A third or subsequent offense will remain a misdemeanor with an elevated (from $300 to $1,000) fine and the possibility of up to six months imprisonment. 

While it remains unacceptable that the preferences and opinions of unelected health board members have any force of law, these changes do serve to reduce penalties, and that is a positive change. 

(+1)

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