Board of Health shorthanded due to Senate inaction

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Published: July 20,2010

Tags: healthcare, Legislature, state government

JACKSON — When the state Board of Health met earlier this month, Tupelo physician Ed Hill and Iuka physician-banker Kelly Segars were present, having been appointed to the panel earlier this year by Gov. Haley Barbour.

Neither Hill nor Segars actually participated in the meeting because, for a variety of reasons, they weren’t confirmed during the 2010 session by the Mississippi Senate.

And they weren’t alone.

The Senate never took up about 15 of the governor’s nominations to boards and commissions that govern and set policy for various segments of state government.

Because of the failure to act, it appears those nominees currently are not actually serving on the boards.

Liz Sharlot, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said Segars and Hill “attended the board meeting as invited guests. They did not participate” in voting or making motions, but they could express their opinions.

Under state law, people appointed while the Senate is out of session can serve until they are taken up when the Senate is in session. However, if they are not approved during the session, they cannot continue to serve.

Sen. Hob Bryan, a Democrat from Amory and chairman of the Public Health Committee that handles many of the people who were not confirmed, said the Senate did not receive the nominations in time from the governor’s office for the Senate staff to do the required background checks.

The people who were not confirmed could be taken up during a special session or next year during the regular session. Whether a quirk in the law can be found to allow them to start serving now is not clear, though based on past rulings of attorneys general, that seems unlikely.

Others are in the same boat as Segars and Hill include Mac McDivitt of Amory for the Board of Pharmacy and Rick Elam of Oxford for the Board of Public Accountancy.

The problem is if a board cannot meet because a quorum is not present. If a board is short members, that puts more pressure on the existing members to attend meetings.

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