An attempt to prevent politicians from serving on public health boards came to a halt in the Colorado Legislature this week.
Rep. Cathy Kipp, a Fort Collins Democrat, had hoped the bill would remove politics out of local public health decisions. County commissioners would have been disqualified from being a part of public health boards while in office.
But the bill received so much pushback, especially from smaller rural counties, that sponsors stripped that proposal from the bill. Twenty-six of Colorado’s 64 counties have commissioners who serve on health boards.
Instead, the measure now calls for anyone serving on a public health board — county commissioner or resident — to take an annual training.
Republicans on the House Transportation and Local Government Committee still voted against the bill Tuesday, but it passed on a 7-4 vote. Kipp thinks she will get more bipartisan support when it goes to the full House. Republican Sen. Kevin Priola, of Henderson, is also a sponsor.
Colorado Counties, Inc., a nonprofit association is now changing its position on the bill, according to the organization’s director of external affairs Gini Pingenot. The group backs ongoing training and education efforts.
“The challenge has been that this pandemic has been so political,” Pingenot said. “Simply removing county commissioners from the mix doesn’t take the politics out of the pandemic.”
Republican Rep. Marc Catlin, a Montrose Republican, believes the entire bill should have been killed. He opposed the initial ban on commissioners, as well as the training requirements.
“The insinuation is that our elected county commissioners are not smart,” said Catlin, who commended commissioners’ work during the pandemic in Montrose, Telluride, Cortez and Dove Creek. He added that the requirements are another barrier for counties with small populations and less money.
Kipp said the diluted legislation will still improve public health responses — especially as the science and education evolves for future crises.
“I think what we struggled with a lot is starting from the same set of facts,” she said, “and maybe the education … will help people all start from the same set of facts so they can move forward.”
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