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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

This article was originally published in the January/February 2002 issue of Health Freedom Watch.

Jonathan Turley ... warned ... that at perilous times government can do things that are harmful.