History: Minnesota Emergency Health Powers Act

Why did the Minnesota legislature pass this Act?
For reasons unknown, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is an operating component of the federal U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), drafted a public health emergency proposal in 1999. Less than two months after the 9/11 terrorist attack, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services paid Professor Lawrence Gostin to revise the proposal, which was issued as the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MEHPA) on October 23, 2001, and finalized December 2001. The model act authorized state health officials and their designees to take control of people, property, health care, communications and more in a public health emergency.

To encourage states to pass similar laws in each state, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), held a forum on Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, March 1, 2002 in Washington, DC. Approximately 500 state legislators and industry representatives attended this meeting.

Gostin and company from the Centers for Law and the Public’s Health: A Collaborative at Georgetown and John Hopkins Universities, tracked the results of their efforts through July 2006. The Network for Public Health Law updated that tracking in 2011 via the MSEHPA summary matrix. This matrix shows which states passed bills, statutes and regulations that replicate, reflect or closely relate to 10 key points in the MSEHPA Act, as well as additional model laws, including the Turning Point Model State Public Health Act and the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act, which reflect provisions of MSEHPA.

10 key points from MSEHPA the CDC wanted all states to have in law:

  1. Defining Public Health Emergency or like term (section 104)
  2. Measures to detect & track public health emergencies (section 301)
  3. Declaring a state of pubic health emergency (section 401)
  4. Suspension of laws (section 404(a)(1))
  5. Access to and control of facilities and property (section 502
  6. Control of health care supplies (section 505)
  7. Vaccination and treatment (Section 603)
  8. Isolation and quarantine (section 604, 605)
  9. Licensing and appointment of health personnel (608)
  10. Immunity for State/private actors (section 804)

As you can see in the Public Health Law Network’s tracking, between 2002 and 2011, 40 of 50 states passed related statutes, including Minnesota. (Interestingly, the Network for Public Health Law is located in Minnesota, at 7101 York Avenue South, #270 Edina, MN 55435. The organization is a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with direction and technical assistance by the Public Health Law Center.)

Initial versions of the act introduced in Minnesota were based on a proposal by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The MDH proposal was modeled after the MEHPA model act issued by the CDC in 2001, linked above.

The Minnesota Emergency Health Powers Act enacted in 2002, included multiple sections related to MSEHPA, expired on Aug. 1, 2005. While some provisions of this expired in 2005, other similar regulatory provisions were enacted.

In 2005 the legislature removed the condition for which the governor can call a peacetime emergency…they removed the phrase “public health emergency”. However, the phrase “during a national security emergency or during a peacetime emergencyremains in 12.34.

“The governor may declare a peacetime emergency. A peacetime declaration of emergency may be declared only when an act of nature, a technological failure or malfunction, a terrorist incident, an industrial accident, a hazardous materials accident, or a civil disturbance endangers life and property and local government resources are inadequate to handle the situation.remains in 12.31