POUGHKEEPSIE — Dutchess County legislators have begun debating a local law that would strip the county Board of Health of its authority to set public health laws.
Members of the Legislature’s Government Services and Administration Committee on Thursday took up legislation proposed by Legislator Michael Kelsey that would take away the board’s authority to “formulate, adopt, promulgate, amend or repeal” rules and regulations that affect public health or the county sanitary code. That power, instead, would be given to the Legislature.
Kelsey, a first-term legislator, said he doesn’t believe the board, as an unelected body, should have the ability to set rules and regulations that have the effect of law. Violations of some public health laws carry possible jail time.
That authority, he said, should rest with legislators, who are elected every two years by voters.
Kelsey, R-Pleasant Valley, said he also was concerned by what he described as the less-than-open process the Board of Health follows. “There are no meeting notices, no agendas, no published minutes,” he said, adding that the board sets policies without the kind of public scrutiny or input demanded of legislative actions.
Board of Health actions have stirred some controversy over the years, most notably when the board attempted to ban smoking in indoor public places by amending the county’s sanitary health code. That ban later was struck down by the courts, which said the board overstepped its bounds. Recently, the Board of Health tried to require fluoridation of public water systems. Kelsey said the body also is considering adopting regulations that would prohibit people younger than 18 from using tanning salons.
No members of the Board of Health were asked to attend Thursday’s meeting.
Dr. William Augerson, a physician and a member of the Board of Health, previously has rejected the notion that the board has overstepped its bounds, calling the issues significant public health concerns. He has said legislators should do what they believe is right, but he added that the change “would overturn probably a century’s worth of regulatory approaches to public health in the state.”
Some legislators questioned whether the Legislature has the authority to strip the Board of Health of its power to set public health law.
“It’s my understanding that the Board of Health gets its authority from the state’s Public Health Law,” said Legislator Marge Horton. “If that’s the case, I don’t know how we can take it away.”
Under the state’s Public Health Law, once a county creates a Board of Health, the board is vested by the state with great legislative and quasijudicial powers. The existence of the Dutchess County Board of Health dates to at least 1967, when the county adopted its charter form of government.
Kelsey said Orange County did exactly what he is proposing in Dutchess, by turning the Board of Health into an advisory board.
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ONLINE COMMENT FROM NYSCOF [New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation]:
” The Suffolk County legislature took away the power to fluoridate from their Health Commissioner in the 1990’s because it took the power out of the hands of the people.
Clearly, if you read the minutes of the Dutchess County Dental Society, you will see they are over zealous about keeping Dutchess County as fluoridated as they can. They approached the Dutchess County Health Department to mandate fluoridation. In effect, your health department was carrying out the political motives of organized dentistry, with no transparency.
No New Yorker is, or ever was, fluoride deficient. However, many are dentist-deficient. Only 25% of NYS dentists accept Medicaid patients, and some only a handful.
Dentists give the illusion they care about low-income people by treating their drinking water. However, most of them would never allow them into their dental chairs.
NYS should mandate that every dentist treat more low-income people. After all, we know dentists love mandates because they are behind virtually every fluoridation mandate in this country.
The dentists recently bullied the city of Walden to resume fluoridation after Walden wisely voted to stop fluoridation.
People need to take back their water supplies from the special interest groups and call, write, visit, email and petition their local leaders to stop adding unnecessary, harmful fluoride chemicals into their public water supplies.
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