Regional Health Board Bill Advances In Washington Legislature

Feb 11, 2021

Rep. Marcus Riccelli wants to reduce political influence in public health decisions.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A Spokane state representative’s bill to make changes to local health districts has passed out of committee in the Washington state House.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli’s bill would require counties, including Spokane, to form comprehensive public health districts.

It would create a statewide work group to figure out how to do that.

Part of Riccelli’s motive is to reduce what he sees as the effect of politics made by local public health boards. He was critical of the Spokane County health board’s decision to support the firing of former health officer Bob Lutz.

A critic of the bill, Kitsap County Republican Michelle Caldier, says the proposal is too much at one time.

“I hope that we can either (A) address Spokane County individually or (B) put a pause on this. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Why on Earth are we shifting gears in the middle of a pandemic? For most of our counties, we don’t have a problem," she said.

Riccelli disagreed with that. He says counties other than Spokane have their own public health issues.

“Things have happened in Douglas, Chelan, Yakima, Tacoma-Pierce. It happened all over our state. I do think it’s worth looking at how politics has infected our public health and how we can balance our boards," he said.

Riccelli’s bill now advances in the legislative process. He has also introduced a second bill that would require more medical representation on local health boards.