Publication Date: 
Thursday, July 28, 2022

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, legislators in 48 jurisdictions — all but Iowa, South Dakota, and the District of Columbia — have introduced bills in 2021 to limit state executive authority in a public health emergency. 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 covers all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and includes laws that were enacted since January 1, 2021, and were effective on or before May 20, 2022. 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.