BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County Councilor David Reagor has asked for an agenda item to discuss whether or not the County has the ability through its home rule powers to override certain state public health orders. At Tuesday’s Council meeting, his first since elected to office. Reagor said the County Charter give Los Alamos “pretty extensive powers to write rules”.
“I find these public health orders where we are kind of targeting specific businesses like a restaurant for closure – or some kind of pattern like that – are not really satisfying any kind of biological or reasoning at all. There are things that are like gloves, sanitizers, masks, spacing between people – all of these are really relative to disease – but I question why in our county we’re allowing a kind of targeting of specific kinds of businesses,” Reagor said.
He said there should just be the same rules for everyone and that there should be a law that is applied to every single person in the county.
“If you have a certain set of health rules – fine – you make those rules up but they have to be related to what you’re actually doing and not sort of the name of the business. In regards to restaurants or whatever else – they’re constantly changing in the closures. But I don’t see why we have to follow, at least according to our charter which gives us these sweeping powers of home rule,” Reagor said. “They’re very generous in these home rules – that we can set aside some of that and let our restaurants be open and other kinds of facilities. Why are we not giving everybody equal treatment under law – everybody gets the exact same law to behave themselves to. I’m afraid I don’t see that in the governor’s orders. They’re not really laws passed by a legislature anyway.”
He said he wanted to add the topic as an agenda item and perhaps first have a review by County Attorney Alvin Leaphart on the issue.
“I think to clarify that we do have that authority and then need some kind of an ordinance to exercise that authority to exempt parts of our county from ordinances that are I think needlessly restrictive,” Reagor said.
Councilor Sara Scott said what she would be interested in was any comment by the County Attorney or if he would wish to wait for future discussion regarding Council’s ability to overrule a state health directive using the home rule capacity or status in the County Charter and with that response consider how to proceed with such an agenda item.
Leaphart suggested that he put together a memorandum on the nature and extent of the County’s home rule powers as they relate to the public health orders which he thought might be a good starting point.