Sussex County Delaware

Guest Commentary:
House Bill No. 377

Guest Opinion ...

The Model State Emergency
Health Powers Act --
Delaware Style

Guest Commentary

Editor's Note: Matthew Opaliski is a Greenwood resident with an eye on local and state politics and an interest in running for elected office in the future.

Matthew Opaliski, Guest Commentary

House Bill 377 was introduced in the Delaware General Assembly on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2002, by Rep. Pamela S. Maier (R).

It has a long list of co-sponsors both in the House and the Senate, none of which I would bet have taken the time to read the Bill in itís entirety.

This piece of legislation was adopted from the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, an Act that was prepared by The Center for Law and the Public's Health at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities.

It was prepared for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the following groups: The National Governors Association, The National Conference of State Legislatures, The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, The National Association of City and County Health Officers and The National Association of Attorneys General.

It is far reaching and it must be stopped.

The Governor touched on this legislation as a priority in her State of the State Address on Thursday, Jan. 17, in front of the General Assembly. She urged our legislators to act quickly in passing a number of measures; this piece of legislation was included in that request.

This excerpt was taken from that address: "I am announcing a package of bills that will increase our readiness to deal with potential terrorism, and I hope the General Assembly will take them up and pass them quickly."

Governor Minner noted that this Bill, along with others, is important to our anti-terrorism efforts and asked that the General Assembly pass them as soon as possible. Governor Minner talked about the events of September 11th, as will many top state officials this year in their addresses to their respective states.

And, although I agree that what happened in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania was indeed horrible, it does not mean that we need to sacrifice the integrity of all that we stand for and sell ourselves short on being able to respond to a hypothetical situation without the need for these types of intrusive and knee jerk measures.

Furthermore, drafting this legislation from the text of a Model Act that was for all intents and purposes commissioned by the CDC simply because it is expected that we do so is irresponsible.

As introduced, this piece of legislation would give powers to the office of Governor under a state of declared emergency that would be immune to Judicial review.

Some of the extraordinary powers granted to the Governor under this Bill include the ability to seize private property, including real estate and housing. Immediate private possessions such as communication devices, automobiles, food, fuel, and clothing could also be taken.

It authorizes the Governor to impose price controls and rationing on medical items. It authorizes the Governor to order people out of their homes into dangerous quarantines where there would be no guarantee of safety from violence or contagious disease.

It authorizes the implementation of mandatory medical examinations and mandatory treatment or vaccinations; you would be subject to quarantine for refusal to participate.

I could go on, there are twenty-six (26) pages included in this proposal as it is written.

Take the time to read this Bill and contact your legislators to let them know that this Bill is unacceptable. Under the guise of security during a health emergency this Bill does, in fact, strip you of your rights. If you do nothing else today, read this Bill. The full text is available on the Internet at

A committee meeting is scheduled for this Bill with the House Health & Human Development Committee in the House Majority Caucus Room at Legislative Hall in Dover on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 3 p.m.

I am working along with others to bring together as many people as possible that can attend this meeting to let our legislators know that this Bill cannot pass as it is written.

Please try to make it a point to attend this committee meeting and call your representatives to let them know that this legislation is not welcome in its current form.

Contact me if you would like further information at (302) 349-9356. If possible, try to muster support so that others can attend as well.

Spread the word, and fast, because under the false pretense of being prepared for anything that may come down the pike, this Bill is streamlined for the Governor's desk.

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