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Relating to powers and duties of governmental entities during a public health disaster; providing civil penalties.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
SB 1616 would establish limitations on a local government's emergency authority by explicitly defining that a disaster does not include an epidemic or the spread of a communicable disease. In addition, the bill removes certain criminal offenses and instead implements a civil penalty to a person of not more than $500 if the person:
On the request of the Department of State Health Services or a health authority, the attorney general or district/county attorney would be allowed to sue to collect the civil penalty and recover reasonable costs and fees.
SB 1616 would eliminate criminal penalties for these actions, reducing them to a lesser civil infraction.
SB 1616 eliminates numerous criminal penalties for those who violate public health disaster protocols. As seen during COVID-19, governmental health restrictions can become overbearing and oppressive. People should not be subject to criminal penalties for violating rules that can be arbitrary or unnecessary. SB 1616 benefits the principles of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government. We strongly support SB 1616.