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Hannah Joy on Board of Health

This year's legislative session produced a bill on behalf of the governor's office, HB 1152, that would change the current makeup of health districts. Although this bill has been significantly neutered compared to its original bill, it still violates the most basic democratic principles of our country.

There are currently 35 decentralized local health jurisdictions in Washington state. The makeup of each BOH depends if it is a home rule county or not. In the instance of Skamania County, we are not and so our BOH is made up of our three elected County commissioners.

The board can expand itself, according to current laws, but must not have a majority of un elected officials. The board must also appoint a local health officer “who must be an experienced physician or osteopathic physician who has a Master of Public Health degree or equivalent.”

The idea is to keep local control with the closest elected officials that represent their area. Skamania county wouldn’t be very happy having Clark county commissioners making decisions on their behalf. Clark would equally not be happy to have people they did not elect making decisions for them.

But now that is all changing by regionalizing Health Districts into nine Comprehensive Health Services Districts throughout the state. Our district will now consist of Skamania, Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum counties.

HB 1152 states that “City and County elected officials may  not constitute a majority of the board,” essentially making sure that your voice would not be the deciding factor when making serious decisions about how we are governed in the area of health.

Two of the Skamania County Commissioners, Mahar and Lannon, expressed that they felt they had no other choice but to pass the amendment even though they did not agree with it.

“I guess you know, I realize we don't really have a choice in this,” stated Mahar after hearing the testimony against the amendment by Hannah Joy. Lannen followed Mahar stating “I have much the same feeling that Richard does. And it was interesting to hear that this is ripe for a possible lawsuit. But … I think (there is) little that we can do without probably seeing that challenge.”

The concern not only stems from violating The Washington State Constitution Article 1 Section 1, “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed…” We the people exert our power by voting, censoring, and taking electeds that violate their oath out of office.

It is time that the people start using the power they inherently have and start holding elected officials accountable for their blatant violations against a constitution that they made an oath to uphold.

I am not just talking about your local county elected officials either, your power extends all the way to the Governor's desk.