Local health depts. call Whitmer to veto bill that strips DHHS power

    Department of Health and Human Services | Susan J. Demas

    The Michigan Association for Local Public Health penned a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Thursday asking her to veto a bill that would decentralize powers of the public health system away from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

    House Bill 4049, which is heading to Whitmer’s desk and is tie-barred to a school funding supplemental bill allocating federal COVID relief dollars, would ban DHHS from closing in-person instruction or high school sports, passing that power over to local health departments. Republican lawmakers oppose the Whitmer administration’s COVID restrictions.

    Norm Hess, executive director of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, wrote that the bill would “result in confusion” and “impede a coordinated and timely response” to the pandemic. 

    “Michigan’s decentralized public health system affords local public health jurisdictions significant authority to address local threats to the health of their constituents. However, it is imperative that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also retain authority to address issues such as school closures and sporting events that affect multiple local jurisdictions,” Hess wrote.

    One of the main issues of giving full authority to local health departments is that many school districts cross county and health department jurisdiction boundaries, muddying the waters for which department should make the decisions regarding schools and sports. 

    Allison Donahue
    Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.