Commissioner says counties did not ask for new state law requiring health regulation approvals

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — June 2, 2021 is the take effect date for a new state law requiring county commissions or other appointing entities for boards of health to approve all new rules from those boards along with any amendments to existing rules.

Commissioner Greg Puckett

“A bad bill” was how Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett described the legislation, SB 12, which Governor Jim Justice signed into law last week.

“I’m a public health advocate. I’ve always been that and I truly believe that public health needs to be left autonomous because, I think when you put politics into things like that, you really limit the amount of public health that you’re going to have for constituents,” he said.

“I wish they would have left it alone, but here we are.”

Commissioner Puckett sits on the board of directors for the County Commissioners’ Association of West Virginia which, with others, opposed the legislation.

Those with the organization argued, commissioners already have “strong, active” relationships with members of boards of health.

In some cases, commissioners serve on those boards.

“The counties absolutely did not ask for it (SB 12),” said Puckett.

“I honestly think that we’re a little confused as to what the Legislature’s trying to do with this bill and others. It seems like this one, they want to give us the authority, and other bills, they want to take it away.”

Puckett said he lobbied against the bill from introduction through signing to no avail.

He said he had concerns the authority change would put public health at risk while opening up health issues, like smoking regulations, harm reduction programs and water or sewer matters, to litigation.

“I just think putting politics over public health in this capacity is going to be detrimental to the state,” said Puckett

“I hope that future legislators look at that and say, ‘Maybe we made a mistake.’ For right now, we’re going to live with it, we’re going to move forward and do the best we can.”

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