COVID’S Counterpunch: State Legislative Assaults on Public Health Emergency Powers
__ BYU Journal of Public Law __ (Forthcoming 2021)
12 Pages Posted: 14 May 2021
Date Written: May 14, 2021
Amid the most impactful health crisis in over a century, COVID’s “counterpunch” entails aggressive efforts by numerous state legislatures to diminish state and local public health emergency powers. It is an incredulous movement facially supported by a need to appropriately balance economic interests and rights with communal health objectives. At its political core, however, is a “power grab” by legislatures to free their constituents from extensive emergency powers (e.g., social distancing, assembly limits, and business closures). Never mind the fact that these interventions, when used effectively and constitutionally, save lives and reduce morbidity. Public health agents and activists are understandably concerned about diminutions of their express and discretionary emergency powers. Yet affirmative and strategic uses of existing legal remedies examined in this brief commentary may blunt the impact of these legislative proposals.
Keywords: COVID, emergency, powers, public health, social distancing, legislation, counter, constitutional, challenge, executive, waiver, separation of powers, national security, federal, state, preemption, remedies
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