Senate Bill 1139 — Health and welfare director, duties

Senate Bill 1139 — Health and welfare director, duties

by
Parrish Miller
March 1, 2021
Parrish Miller
March 1, 2021

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1139 clarifies definitions of "quarantine," "isolation," and other terms. It also clarifies the powers of the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. 

Rating: +2

Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?

Senate Bill 1139 amends Section 56-1001, Idaho Code, to add and revise definitions related to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. 

Among these new and modified definitions are the following:

  • "Biological agent" is newly defined to mean "a bacterium, virus, fungus, protozoan, parasite, or other microorganism and associated toxins with the ability to adversely affect human health or cause death."
  • "Chemical agent" is newly defined to mean "any chemical that through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation, or permanent harm to humans or animals."
  • "Isolation" is redefined to mean the "separation of a person diagnosed with an infectious or a communicable disease, presenting medically unknown symptoms, or contaminated from a chemical, nuclear, or biological agent for a period of time limited to when the person is infectious, displaying medically unknown symptoms, or contaminated."
  • "Medically unknown symptoms" is newly defined to mean "symptoms that are or could be suggestive of an infectious or communicable disease and that do not sufficiently reveal the structural or other specified pathology of an illness on initial examination."
  • The definition of "quarantine" is revised to mean the "separation of a person exposed to: (a) An infectious or a communicable disease; (b) Another person displaying medically unknown symptoms; or (c) Another person exposed to contamination from a chemical, nuclear, or biological agent; under circumstances likely to result in the spread of the disease, symptoms, or contaminant to the person who had such contact. The separation may last only for a reasonable period of time sufficient to determine whether or not the exposed person will become sick."
  • "Restricted access" is newly defined to mean "limited or disallowed access to an area: (a) That has been cordoned off; (b) At which signs have been posted limiting or disallowing access; or (c) To which entry or exit has in some other way been limited or blocked."

Because these definitions are used to determine whose rights can be suspended through orders of quarantine and isolation, it is important that the definitions be as strict and narrow as possible. While these definitions still include some subjective language and ambiguity (e.g. "could be suggestive of," "likely to result"), they are still significant improvements compared to the definitions (or lack thereof) in current law. 

(+1)

Senate Bill 1139 amends Section 56-1003, Idaho Code, to clarify the "powers and duties" of the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Some of these changes help to clean up and clarify subjective language. For example, subsection 2 currently says, "The director shall, pursuant and subject to the provisions of the Idaho Code, and the provisions of this chapter, formulate and recommend to the board rules, codes and standards, as may be necessary to deal with problems related to personal health. ..." This is ambiguous language. 

The revision to the subsection is more direct. "The director shall, pursuant and subject to the provisions of the Idaho Code, and the provisions of this chapter, promulgate and recommend to the board rules to administer statutes related to health. ..." 

The proper purpose of administrative rules is not to "deal with problems" but "to administer statutes," and this change makes this clearer. 

A new subsection (3)(a) is added to say that among the "powers and duties" of the director is "the education of the people of this state using guidelines and recommendations for issues of health, safety, mental health, and wellness." This language is concerning because it smacks of propaganda. 

The bill also adds new language related to the director's power to "impose and enforce orders of isolation, quarantine, or restricted access." 

Regarding isolation, it says, "An order of isolation may be issued only for a person diagnosed with an infectious or a communicable disease, presenting medically unknown symptoms, or contaminated from a chemical, nuclear, or biological agent and only while a person is infectious, displaying unknown symptoms, or contaminated."

Regarding quarantine, it says, "An order of quarantine may be issued only for a person exposed to: (i) An infectious or a communicable disease; (ii) A person displaying medically unknown symptoms; or (iii) Contamination from a chemical, nuclear, or biological agent; under circumstances likely to result in the spread of the disease, symptoms, or contaminant to the person who had such contact and only for a reasonable period of time sufficient to determine whether or not the exposed person will become sick."

Regarding restricted access, it says, "If the director has reasonable cause to believe a chemical, nuclear, or biological agent has been released in an identifiable place, including a building or structure, the director may impose an order of restricted access into or out of that place for the purpose of determining whether that place has been contaminated with a chemical, nuclear, or biological agent that may create a substantial and immediate danger to the public. An order of restricted access shall be effective only until such time as the contamination has been remediated and the area of restricted access has been determined to no longer pose an immediate health risk."

New language is also added regarding the right of "an individual who is the subject of or affected by such order" to seek judicial review of the order. A hearing on a request for review "shall be held as soon as practicable but no later than three (3) business days after the request is made." The court may require the individual seeking review "to appear remotely via technology approved by the Idaho supreme court." 

Upon the conclusion of the hearing, "the court conducting judicial review shall issue an order: (i) Affirming or modifying the order of isolation, quarantine, or restricted access; or (ii) Reversing the order and releasing an individual who is the subject of or affected by such order."

While there is still some room for improvement to these sections, the changes proposed by Senate Bill 1139 will help to protect individual rights and to prevent the Department of Health and Welfare from using its powers to restrict the liberty of healthy people. 

(+1)

View Comments
Idaho Freedom Foundation
802 W. Bannock Street, Suite 405, Boise, Idaho 83702
p 208.258.2280 | e [email protected]
COPYRIGHT © 2021 Idaho freedom Foundation
magnifiercrossmenucross-circle
>
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram