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Report Emergency Legal Preparedness and ResponseLegislation and Legal ChallengesPublic Health Authority

Proposed Limits on Public Health Authority: Dangerous for Public Health


In recent months, at least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering measures to limit severely the legal authority of public health agencies to protect the public from serious illness, injury, and death. Other states may consider such legislation in the future. It is foreseeable that these laws will lead to preventable tragedies.

Specifically, this report finds that dissatisfaction and anger at perceived overreaches by governors and public health officials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an onslaught of legislative proposals to eliminate or limit the emergency powers and public health authority used by these officials. Public health officials are also being threatened personally.

This report, developed by the Network and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), provides a brief history of public health authority and its important role in protecting the health of communities. The report also provides examples of specific laws that would limit public health authority. It is intended as a resource for public health officials, advocates, and policymakers.

The Network and NACCHO conducted a webinar to discuss key issues from the report on June 8. Learn more about the webinar and view recording.