LOCAL CONTROL AT HEART OF BOARD’S REQUEST FOR HICKENLOOPER VETO
WELD COUNTY, CO – A letter formally requesting Governor John Hickenlooper’s veto of House Bill 16-1401(HB 16-1401) was sent yesterday by the Weld County Board of Commissioners. HB 16-1401 pertains to the regulation of retail food establishments, or more simply put, restaurant inspections. The bill, which limits counties’ ability to control local funds as well as dictates to counties what they can and can’t say to constituents, passed both the House and the Senate and is on the way to the Governor’s desk.
“If the Governor signs this bill into law,” said Commissioner Chair Mike Freeman, “it will have a significant negative local impact in terms of public health.”
The Board’s concerns with the bill focus on two primary areas. First, the bill prohibits the county from deciding how to allocate general fund revenue to support this program. Currently, the Board funds over $670,000 to the restaurant inspection program. That is 74% of the program’s total cost. HB 16-1401 would prohibit the ability to adjust the dollar amount allocated to a state program. “The bill would tie the hands of the commissioners,” said Freeman. “It would mean the state at the direction of the restaurant association would dictate how Weld County taxpayer dollars are spent. That is not acceptable.”
Second, the bill dictates how counties can relay restaurant inspection information to the public, specifically prohibiting the use of symbols, letters, or other simplified forms of communication for relaying restaurant inspection results. In 2014, the county revamped its restaurant inspection web site to include charts from previous inspections and letter grades, in addition to continuing to provide the actual restaurant inspection report. Changes to the site were positive as site use by the public increased by 100% and the number of local restaurants receiving an “F” letter grade was reduced by 50%.
“The constraints this bill places on our county is ridiculous,” said Freeman. “If the Governor chooses to sign this bill into law, Weld County will have no choice but to end out subsidy to this state program. We will not let the state tell us how we spend taxpayer dollars or how we communicate to our constituents.”