(April 7, 2020) - Federal and state lawmakers join governors across the U.S. in continuing to wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic in ways both big and small.
Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order April 6 asserting emergency powers to suspend in-person voting at the next day’s statewide election, but a four-justice majority of the state Supreme Court quickly struck down the measure in response to a petition by Republican legislators.
”The majority gives Wisconsinites an untenable choice: endanger your safety and potentially your life by voting or give up your right to vote by heeding the recent and urgent warnings about the fast-growing pandemic,” Justice Ann Walsh Bradley said in a dissent joined by Justice Rebecca Frank Dallet.
Justice Daniel Kelly, who is running for reelection, did not participate in the decision.
South Carolina’s Republican Gov. Henry McMaster on April 3 (Executive Order 2020-19) banned motels, hotels and other businesses involved in short-term rentals from accepting new reservations from people traveling from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. The order may be expanded to other areas if they are placed under travel advisories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, the Maine Department of Marine Resources on March 30 reopened coastal waters for elver fishing (2020 ME REG TEXT 550768). The fishery for young eels was closed March 22, but the department said new protocols for social distancing justified the change.
Federal regulations, legislation
The Combating Hunger for Older Americans During Coronavirus Crisis Act of 2020 (2019 CONG US HR 6313), introduced in the U.S. House in March by Rep. Susan Wild, D-Penn., and Rep. David “Phil” Roe, R-Tenn., would provide additional nutrition assistance under the Older Americans Act of 1965 to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., on March 25 introduced a resolution (2019 CONG US HRES 909) that would condemn China for hiding “the emergence and spread of COVID-19 within its borders during the initial weeks of the pandemic.” The resolution calls for an international investigation into how China’s actions contributed to the coronavirus outbreak and seeks a means to deliver compensation from China to nations affected by COVID-19.
The IRS issued a notice April 2 (2020 WL 1652917) providing relief to employers that fail to make timely federal employment tax deposits and are entitled to tax credits provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced April 6 new Medicaid and Medicare payment rules (2020 WL 1663274) for rural health facilities to make it easier for them to use telemedicine and other social distancing measures.
The Labor Department (2020 WL 1663275) said April 6 it will adjust public health emergency leave and emergency paid sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to accommodate people suffering from or caring for family members with COVID-19.
State legislation, executive actions
Oregon officials on April 1 produced a plethora of coronavirus-related actions:
- The state Health Authority (2020 OR REG TEXT 550935) now requires laboratories to report both positive and negative COVID-19 tests.
- The Board of Pharmacy (2020 OR REG TEXT 550880) tells pharmacists to avoid filling prescriptions for chloroquine and hydrochloroquine for COVID-19 treatment to avoid shortages for those who suffer from diseases that require the drugs.
- The Department of Fish and Wildlife (2020 OR REG TEXT 550892) has extended to May 1 the end date to buy a tag for the spring bear hunt.
- The Board of Maritime Pilots (2020 OR REG TEXT 550878) will waive professional development training for pilots who need to renew their licenses.
- The Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision (2020 OR REG TEXT 550933) announced state prisons will not accept visitors.
- The Mental Health Regulatory Agency and Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists (2020 OR REG TEXT 550872) will temporarily allow reciprocal licensing for counselors and therapists from other states.
Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an order (2020 La. Sess. Law Serv. Proclamation 38) March 31 saying all funerals and graveside services be limited to no more than 10 attendees.
Staffing and health issues related to coronavirus led the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (2020 RI REG TEXT 550959) to announce March 27 it may close some cash and credit card toll booths and direct drivers through E-ZPass lanes. The agency said it will send invoices to vehicle owners who lack E-ZPass accounts.
On April 2 Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management issued an emergency rule (2020 RI REG TEXT 550977) authorizing its director to close or limit access to state parks, beaches, campgrounds and other areas to protect public health.
New Mexico Gov. Michele Grisham, a Democrat, signed an executive order April 2 allowing nurses licensed in Canada to provide care in the state during the pandemic.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, issued an executive order April 3 to adjust signature-gathering laws by suspending regulations that require in-person signatures on local ballot initiatives and other measures governing petitions and signature sheets.
Florida’s Department of State took similar action April 3 (2020 FL REG TEXT 551117) with an emergency rule removing the requirement that a candidate petition must have a voter’s original ink signature.
North Dakota’s Republican Gov. Doug Bergum issued an executive order April 3 suspending licensing requirements for qualified respiratory therapists to allow competent professionals with lapsed credentials to return to practice.