Legislators in nearly all US states (46) have introduced bills in 2021 to limit governors’ or health officials‘ authority during the COVID-19 pandemic or other emergencies. According to the data, between January 1, 2021, and June 17, 2021, 11 of these bills were enacted into law and became effective.
“Laws that restrict the authority of governors and health agencies to act in times of emergency could significantly impact public health by limiting their ability to take actions necessary to respond to or mitigate the crisis,” said Katie Moran-McCabe, special projects manager at the Center for Public Health Law Research and lead researcher on this project.
States have taken a variety of approaches to curbing public health authority. As of June 17, 2021:
- Eleven states have a law in effect that was passed since January 1, 2021, that limits state executive authority regarding public health orders.
- Nine states limited both the then-governor’s authority and the authority of a state agency or official, with all those states limiting the scope of at least one type of order.
- Five states limited the governor’s authority, the authority of a state agency or official, and the authority of a local agency or official