With no significant dissent, state lawmakers voted
Thursday to give the governor broad new powers to order medical
examinations and even isolate and quarantine people without court
And it requires police and the National Guard to enforce her orders.
The legislation is in direct response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
It is designed to provide a comprehensive plan of what happens in the
case of a biological terrorist attack, beefing up existing laws that
give the governor powers in emergencies.
Not everyone thought it was a good idea.
House Majority Whip Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, one of only 10
lawmakers to vote against HB 2044, said the governor already has broad
"If she needs more, no one from the governor's office came down and told
me," he said.
Thursday's 45-10 House vote and 29-0 Senate passage send the measure to
Gov. Jane Hull.
It entitles the governor to issue an "enhanced surveillance advisory" if
there is reasonable cause to believe an illness, epidemic disease,
biological toxin or a highly infectious and fatal agent has occurred or
That declaration triggers various laws on patient tracking and
information sharing as well as new requirements on doctors,
veterinarians and pharmacists to report any unusual patterns. It also
permits state and local health officials to access any person's
confidential medical records.
Additional things can happen if the governor declares a state of war or
emergency and there is an occurrence or imminent threat of some disease,
toxin, illness or bioterrorism. The governor could mandate medical
examinations for people who have been exposed and ration medicines and
If the threat is of smallpox, plague, viral hemorrhagic fevers or any
other highly contagious and fatal disease, the governor also could
mandate treatment and vaccination of anyone who has the illness, is
reasonably believed to have been exposed or "may reasonably expect to be
It also allows a person to be quarantined, whether in his or her own
home or elsewhere using the "least restrictive means necessary to
protect the public health." Health officials would not have to seek a
court order until at least 10 days after an isolation or quarantine