Sentinel Surveillance of Emerging Laws Limiting Public Health Emergency Orders

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, legislators in almost every state have introduced bills that would limit state executive authority regarding the use of emergency orders to respond to the current pandemic or future public health emergencies. Between January 1, 2021, and May 20, 2022, one or more of these bills were enacted into law and became effective in 21 states.

Legislative efforts to restrict executive public health powers include laws that limit the duration of a state of emergency or emergency order; provide that emergency orders may be terminated by the legislature; or restrict the provisions an emergency order may contain. These laws could have harmful impacts on public health by restricting the ability of a governor, state health agency, or state health official to respond to a future health emergency in a swift and flexible way.

This longitudinal dataset provides an overview of laws that limit the authority of a governor, state health agency, or state health official, regarding public health emergency orders. The dataset uses the sentinel surveillance of emerging laws and policies legal mapping method.

Research for the dataset was provided by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Center for Public Health Law Research will publish related datasets in Fall 2022 capturing state bills limiting, shifting, or expanding public health authority, bills addressing public health authority measures and preemption, and bills attempting to limit the application of federal law.

Quick Facts

Policy Questions