Judiciary Committee won’t act on health commissioner nomination today

The Senate Judiciary Committee began interviewing the nominee to run the state Health and Senior Services Department Thursday, but Chairman Sen. Nicholas Scutari, (D-22), Linden made it clear it would not be voted on today.

Mary O’Dowd became acting commissioner when Dr. Poonam Alaigh resigned in March.

A clearly irritated Sen. Kevin O’Toole asked Scutari for an explanation why they were going to make O’Dowd return at a later date.

Scutari said the committee would have to adjourn for a caucus and then reconvene later in  the day, that he believed this appointment was not an ‘emergency’ that required immediate action, and indicated he would have many questions for her.

In her opening statement, O’Dowd said that among other things, if she is appointed, she would work with the community to improve end-of-life care by “empowering patients and their families,’’ enhance basic internal operations of the department, and promote healthy communities.

Unlike her predecessor, O’Dowd is not a physician, but she emphasized for the committee her business experience coordinating the state response to a flu virus, putting in place a system to monitor hospitals’ financial health, and using data to streamline the application process for food assistance for low-income seniors.

Scutari asked her for her role in drafting the medical marijuana regulations or selecting alternative treatment center sites, and she said she had no role in either.

O’Dowd said that upon becoming acting commissioner, she had discussions about the program, but not previously during the selection process.

She said the department’s role in the program has been well implemented, and working with the alternative treatment sites is under way.

Scutari pressed her with questions on the scoring system used to select the entities in the program, and whether the administration had input into that process, and O’Dowd said “not that I’m aware.’’

Judiciary Committee won’t act on health commissioner nomination today