State Legislators' Council Holds Forum on Model
State Emergency Health Powers Act
March 1, 2002
The proposed Model State Emergency Health Powers Act
(MSEHPA) was discussed at a panel hosted by the American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on December 15,
2001. The legislation has been introduced in many states
across the country (see "Revised
Model State Emergency Health Powers Act: Big Government
Gets Bigger" for key provisions).
Some 500 state legislators and industry representatives
attended ALEC's meeting in Washington, DC. Jennifer
King, director of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task
Force, moderated the discussion, which included panelists
John Armor, ALEC adjunct scholar for constitutional
studies; Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for
Health Freedom; and Jonathan Turley, professor of law
at George Washington University Law School.
Jennifer King noted that ALEC invited Lawrence Gostin,
a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who
drafted the MSEHPA for the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), to join the panel discussion.
However, neither he nor a representative were available
to speak at the meeting.
Diverse Scholars Agree: MSEHPA Is Dangerous
The conservative constitutional scholar John Armor
strongly opposed the MSEHPA and recommended that state
legislators pass resolutions asking Congress to explain
why federal funds are being spent to draft the model
state legislation. (The CDC awarded Professor Lawrence
Gostin $300,000 per year for up to three years to develop
the model legislation, among other projects.)
Sue Blevins stressed that the MSEHPA is moving quickly
in various states and that lawmakers should pay close
attention to definitions included in the proposed legislation.
She also cautioned state legislators to beware of those
who are using the September 11 attacks as an opportunity
to push through their pre-attack agendas.
Jonathan Turley, a well-known liberal constitutional
scholar, warned the ALEC members that at perilous times
government can do things that are harmful "because
government power operates a lot like a gas in a closed
space." He explained "that as you expand the
space, the gas fills it completely and absolutely. And
it is hard often to restrict that gas again...In times
of crisis is when that space expands and it often expands
with very little foresight and very little consideration."
ALEC is monitoring closely the states' activities
regarding the MSEHPA. The organization updates its Web
site weekly with listings of states that have introduced
the legislation. For more information, visit www.alec.org.
This article was originally published in the January/February
2002 issue of Health