Lawmaker Reject Expanding Secretary Of Health Authority

Mar 30, 2020

Credit Cara Hetland / SDPB

South Dakota House lawmakers are rejecting a proposal that would allow the Secretary of Health to order public and private locations to shutdown as a means to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The bill was introduced on the governor’s behalf, but that office is okay with the rejection.
The bill grants the authority to the Secretary of Health to order the closure of businesses, parks, schools and other locations that promote public gathering. The CDC recommends gatherings of no more than ten people at a time.
Taffy Howard is a Rapid City Republican. She rejects the idea the state should order businesses closed.
“We have to allow businesses to work within their means—whatever that is—to provide revenue for themselves at this time. I’m just not ready to give the Secretary of Health—an unelected official—this authority.”
Another Rapid City Republican, Representative Jess Olsen, supports the idea. She says the authority should be granted by the legislature.
“When you have a situation of public health that endangers other people, that’s when you’re balancing the rights of everyone,” Olsen says. “When you look at the first amendment rights don’t necessarily supersede that if we have that endangerment and people are endangering other people because they are infected and are not following precautions.
Some lawmakers say the governor already has this authority and shouldn’t extend to the Secretary of Health.
A spokesperson for Governor Kristi Noem says the governor has broad emergency powers, but has chosen not to order statewide business closures. Instead, they say they’re encouraging innovation and local control.
They House vote rejecting the measure is consistent with Noem’s reluctance to order business closures.