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Proposed bill would limit Board of Health's power in Knox County

Rep. Jason Zachary introduced the bill that would give the power to establish & implement health policies to the county mayor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Knoxville lawmaker has introduced a bill that would strip power from Knox County's Board of Health and give it to the mayor.

Representative Jason Zachary (R - Knoxville) introduced HB007 on Tuesday, which is co-sponsored by Representative Jeremy Faison (R - Cosby). It specifies that the county mayor has the authority to establish and implement health policies that affect the entire county during a county-wide health emergency.

It outlines that the county health director, health officer, and board of health can provide advice to the mayor to develop policies, but gives them no authority to take any action.

This would only apply in Knox, Shelby, Davidson, Hamilton, Sullivan, and Madison counties. Those are the counties with their own health departments. 

Right now, the Knox County Board of Health has the authority to issue mask mandates and limit business hours during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members include Dr. Martha Buchanan, Director of the Knox Co. Health Dept., along with other people in the medical field.

Knox Co. Mayor Glenn Jacobs is also on the board, but he's been a vocal opponent of the public health actions that the board has taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mayor wrote and narrated a controversial video released by the group Freedom Forward, that criticized the efforts being taken to control the virus. Jacobs said Rep.Zachary was also involved in the video. The mayor later apologized for the video.

Some Knox Co. commissioners have also been working to limit the power of the Board of Health.