Why and how states are updating their public health laws

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Date: Winter 2007
From: Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics(Vol. 35, Issue 4)
Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc.
Document Type: Discussion
Length: 1,950 words
Lexile Measure: 1480L

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Anne C. Haddix

There are four speakers here today. Mr. Benjamin Meier, from the Center for Health Policy at Columbia University, will talk about the Alaska public health law reform pursuant to the Turning Point Model State Public Health Act. He will discuss turning national collaboration into state legislation. Our second speaker, Joan Miles, directs the Montana Department of Health and Human Services and will talk about Montana's public health statute modernization and putting the pieces together. The third speaker, Dr. Susan Allan, director of the Oregon state health department, will talk about the differences between updating public health laws in Virginia and Oregon. Gregg Underheim is a member of the Wisconsin legislature and will discuss shepherding public health bills through state legislatures.

Benjamin Mason Meier

This presentation will assess how the Turning Point Model State Public Health Act (TPA) is currently being used by state policy makers in public health legislative reforms. Both, the Center for Law & the Public's Health at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities and the Center for Health Policy at Columbia University have invested years in researching public health law modernization, and it is a pleasure to represent both these centers in speaking to you on this topic. The TPA, published in September 2003, provides a comprehensive template for states interested in public health law reform and modernization. Our current Alaska study is the first in a series of case studies designed to examine the political and policy efforts undertaken by states following the development of the TPA. Through this project, we are comparing four states that have considered reforming their public health authority pursuant to the TPA and, by analyzing this comparative case study, we are investigating how the TPA is codified into state law and how these modernized state laws can change public health practice. Conclusions based on this analysis are intended to provide the public health practice community with information to facilitate successful modernization of public health statutes across the country and inform scholarship on public health infrastructure.

Examining the events that took place in Alaska following publication of the TPA, statutory attempts to reform Alaskan public health law were made in two consecutive legislative sessions, with only the latter leading to statutory reform. The first of these efforts, HB369/SB304--An Act Related to Public Health, came in the form of minority-sponsored bills reproducing the entire TPA, neither of which received a committee hearing, allegedly due to the incumbent administration's concern that an bill that was unlikely to pass for partisan reasons bill could stymie support for future public health modernization efforts.

This subsequent effort, a "Governor's Bill" sponsored by the administration, was later introduced by the Governor as HB95/SB75--An Act Relating to the Duties of the DHSS. This bill incorporated (or created functionally equivalent provisions of) many of the major facets of the TPA, deviating from the TPA where it was felt to be either (a) inapplicable to the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A172908516