USA Today Debates CDC’s Model Bioterrorism Legislation
In a pair of point-counterpoint opinion pieces, USA Today debates model legislation proposed by the CDC to help states address the threat of bioterrorism. The model legislation proposes giving states broad emergency powers in the event of a large-scale bioterrorist attack, including the right to quarantine people, to force people to take medication and to seize hospitals (American Health Line, 10/31/01).
USA Today: Failure by "laggard" state legislatures to pass the model legislation inhibits the effectiveness of educational campaigns by the CDC and the pharmaceutical industry and puts at risk money that Congress has appropriated to help states prepare against bioterrorism. Although many states are considering the proposal, only seven have passed the legislation, and the editorial states that "time is running out": 28 legislatures will have ended their sessions for the year by the end of next month. The editorial concludes that efforts to combat bioterrorism "won't do much good in [a] biological attack unless states give public health agencies the power to turn early diagnosis into lifesaving action" (USA Today, 4/26).
- American Legislative Exchange Council Executive Director Duane Parde: Parde, who represents a non-partisan organization of state legislatures, writes in a counterpoint opinion piece that while states considering the model legislation "should be heartily applauded," the proposal is "an unprecedented legislative assault upon civil liberties." He writes that the powers that would be granted to public health agencies offer an "enormous" potential for "blunder borne out of incompetence ... [or] willful abuse." He concludes, "If states go too far [with the model legislation], they hand the terrorists of the world a belated victory" (Parde, USA Today, 4/26).
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