STSW partner Steven Leitess appointed to the Uniform Law Commission’s Study Committee on State Governance During Public Health Emergencies

Silverman Thompson

STSW partner Steven Leitess was appointed to the Uniform Law Commission’s Study Committee on State Governance During Public Health Emergencies. The ULC study committee was formed in response to the COVID19 pandemic crisis that closed the United States economy and the need for clear and consistent guidance in key areas of large-scale crisis management

The study committee will consider the need for one or more uniform laws addressing the authority of state governments to respond to epidemics, pandemics and other public health emergencies. In particular, the committee’s scope of review and recommendation includes

  1. the authority of state governments to order individual and area quarantines, isolation, social distancing and other restrictions on travel and gatherings, including enforcement powers such as surveillance, search and seizure, criteria for issuance of such orders, notice requirements, procedures and penalties;
  2. the authority of state governments to order closure of non-essential businesses, and the criteria for determining which businesses are essential;
  3. state government acquisition of critical resources through collective purchasing mechanisms, the need to comply with federal antitrust law, or through commandeering private property with just compensation; and
  4. rules for medical practice, including crisis standards of care, licensure reciprocity, and information sharing.

The study committee’s work is guided by a determination whether these subjects are appropriate for state legislation and uniformity among the states, whether there is a need for an act to address specific issues, whether a uniform act would provide significant benefits to the public through improvement to existing law, and whether a uniform act would maintain the integrity of well-balanced and well-settled law in areas traditionally governed by the states.

The Uniform Law Commission has a record of responding quickly to large-scale emergency events. For example, in 2006 the ULC adopted the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act. Drafted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (2005), the Act allows state governments during a declared emergency to give reciprocity to other state’s health services licensees so that covered individuals may provide emergency health services without first being required to satisfy the disaster state’s licensing requirements. The goal of the Act is to speed medical help to those in need by removing administrative and bureaucratic hurdles, and by managing liability and risk to covered volunteer healthcare providers. The law has been enacted in 17 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. The COVID19 pandemic presents new and even more challenging issues in crisis response.

Mr. Leitess serves as chair of the Maryland Commission on Uniform State Laws, which is a member of the ULC. Since 1892, the ULC has provided states with non-partisan, carefully conceived uniform laws. The ULC’s work simplifies life for people who live, work, or travel in multiple states and improves local economies by facilitating interstate commerce. Each uniform act is drafted in an open and deliberative process that draws on the expertise of state-appointed commissioners, legal advisors and observers.

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