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Law Things Considered

posted on Tue, Mar 5 2013 5:34 pm by Andy Baker-White

The 2013 legislative season is well underway and state legislatures across the country are considering changes and additions to the law that would impact public health. Topics under consideration include statewide smoking bans, harm reduction measures, board of health authority, and many other public health issues. Below are a few examples of what has been introduced so far in a few states.

A bill establishing a statewide smoking ban was introduced in Kentucky’s General Assembly (HB 190). The proposal had some early traction and made its way out of committee; however, the bill was recently sent back to committee and could remain there without receiving a vote. Another bill in Kentucky would take away the power of local boards of health to adopt regulations “necessary to protect the health of the people or to effectuate the purposes of . . . any other law relating to public health” (SB 172). The authority SB 172 seeks to eliminate was recently cited by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in its decision to uphold a local board of health’s adoption of a county wide smoking ban. Changes may also be coming to local boards of health in Ohio, where a proposal would alter the minimum standards for local public health by requiring local boards of health to complete annual continuing education (HB 59, page 1653). HB 59 would also allow the Ohio Department of Health to require general or city health districts to enter into agreements for shared services and to become accredited (page 1643).

Harm reduction measures such as access to naloxone, drug overdose Good Samaritan laws, and expedited partner therapy are also being considered by state lawmakers. A bill permitting health care providers to prescribe naloxone to counter the effects of opioid overdose is being debated in Kentucky (HB 79), and bills allowing physicians to offer expedited partner therapy for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases were filed in both Kentucky (HB 429) and Nebraska (LB 528). So far the Kentucky bill hasn’t made it out of committee while the Nebraska proposal is scheduled for a hearing in March. In Missouri, HB 296 would establish a Good Samaritan law for drug overdoses.

The Nebraska legislature has also scheduled a hearing on a bill that would establish a sales tax on soft drinks (LB 447). The revenue from the soft drink tax would be used by school districts and local health departments for efforts related to child health and obesity.

The Legislatures in Nebraska and Indiana are looking at expanding the scope of practice for nurse practitioners (LB 243) and physician assistants (HB 1099). Expanding the scope of practice could help alleviate the shortage of primary healthcare providers and improve access to health services in many areas. Another bill in Indiana would require health care providers to implement protocols to identify domestic violence, offer intervention and treatment services, and report domestic violence to law enforcement (SB 417). SB 417 passed the Senate and is now in the Indiana House of Representatives.

The Missouri General Assembly is considering a proposal amending the state’s communicable disease law that would allow local public health agencies to seek commitment or directly-observed therapy (DOT) for a person with active tuberculosis (HB 257). Finally, some states are looking to add a screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) to the health screening requirements for newborns. Bills for CCHD screening are making their way through the Missouri (HB 274) and Kentucky (HB 366) legislatures.

This is only a sampling of the bills in state legislatures across the country that would affect public health. To see more proposed state legislation you can visit the State Legislative Tracking page provided by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Also, please feel free to share any bills in your state legislature in the comments section below.

This blog post was prepared by Andy Baker-White, J.D., M.P.H., staff attorney at the Network for Public Health Law – Mid-States Region at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state. The views expressed in this post do not represent those of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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