The current crisis has spared nobody from hardship. Whether it’s the thousands suffering from the virus or the millions who have lost their jobs, the costs of this pandemic and our response will be staggering.

Government has a role to play in protecting the public’s health, but that role is limited and alone, it cannot restart the economy. Government can impose quarantines and order businesses to shut down, but it cannot produce the critical supplies and know-how needed for recovery.

The only way we will emerge from this crisis is by unleashing Americans’ productive energy. To do that, government needs to get out of the way—right now, to save lives, and when the immediate threat is over, to get people back to work.

PLF takes the fight to legislatures, courts of law, and the court of public opinion to free Americans to rebuild from this crisis.

America's Health Care system

Fighting for property rights against California Judicial Council’s eviction ban

Under the guise of responding to COVID-19, the California Judicial Council, a body that sets rules for how courts operate, effectively banned eviction proceedings. This means that landlords like Peggy Christiansen, a retiree who depends on her rental income, cannot take legal action against tenants who damage the property, harass other tenants, or refuse to pay rent. It also means that landlords like Peggy are forced to turn away considerate renters in need of housing. In making their emergency rule, the Judicial Council has seized policymaking power from the legislature and governor to block landlords’ access to the courts. Represented by PLF, Peggy is fighting back with a state lawsuit. Read more

Recommendations

Liberate health care

Health care workers, scientists, and businesses must be free to make decisions and adapt quickly to changes in the developing medical landscape.

  • Right now, 36 states prohibit health care providers from expanding the supply of medical services hospital beds, medical equipment, and new facilities without government permission. This appalling red tape left our most vulnerable populations without enough medical services when they needed it and crippled our nation’s response to COVID-19. Read more
  • The bureaucratic barriers created by occupational licensing make it very expensive and onerous to enter the medical workforce, resulting in fewer caregivers, higher costs, and no benefit to public safety.
  • Scope of Practice laws require highly trained professionals do to jobs which can often be performed more efficiently by other perfectly qualified, caring staff. Read more

Embrace entrepreneurs and the right to earn a living

Millions of Americans must find new work. Old regulations must not create needless barriers to new opportunities.

  • So-called “gig workers” have been delivering food to millions of people across the country who remain sheltered-in-place. And freelance workers of all kinds were well positioned to work from home as offices began closing. One-size-fits-all labor laws undermine the flexibility, creativity, adaptation required during a crisis—and beyond. Read more
  • Occupational licensing cripples the ability of many people to earn a living in the job of their choice—or doing what they love. What’s worse, these licensing rules exist more often to protect existing businesses and professionals from competition than to protect public health or safety.

Expand opportunity by protecting property rights

In the coming months, businesses will close and property must be adapted to new uses. And Americans will need lower-cost housing.

Much of the high cost of housing is due to government land use regulations, which limit how owners can use their property to meet people’s needs. State and local government should simplify or eliminate land use regulation where there is no legitimate concern for public health, safety, or nuisance. Read more

Get the bureaucrats out of the way

Our vast, sprawling regulatory state is simply not capable of responding quickly and effectively to anything, much less to a pandemic. By its nature, the regulatory state takes decisions away from individuals, professionals, and businesses and transfers them to bureaucrats. As a result, we increasingly live in a society in which some of the most important decisions in our lives are made by permission.

This pandemic has already prompted calls for more government control of our lives. But in order to increase the freedom, control, and responsibility that individuals exercise in their own lives, we need less government control. Read more

Questions about the quarantines and shutdowns? Read our FAQ about the government’s emergency orders and what PLF recommends doing about them.

Cases

June 15, 2020

The Sun Sentinel: Florida ambulances need flexibility to serve consumers both now and after the pandemic

As Florida re-opens the economy, no one knows quite what to expect. But one thing that’s clear is that medical providers must be ready to respond to whatever comes — and quickly. Unfortunately, the state’s certificate of need laws stand in the way. Just months ago, Florida’s certificate of need requirement prevented a Naples-based ambulance company from helping those affected in its community. The Florida Legislature can and should repeal this law at the earliest possible opportunity.

May 22, 2020

Issues & Insights: The regulatory state is preventing the right people from getting needed COVID-19 supplies

As we consider how to reopen society safely, one problem remains — shortages of accurate COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment like masks and latex gloves. Many demand that the federal government solve the problem. To be sure, there are things that the federal government can and should do in the face of an international pandemic. But, as this crisis shows, placing all of our eggs in one centralized basket is unwise. A better solution is to rely on free people to help each other.

May 20, 2020

City Journal: Can we sue our way out of quarantine?

The longer the lockdowns last and the less necessary that they seem, the more scrutiny courts will apply. State governors from coast to coast issued coronavirus-related lockdown orders about two months ago, closing businesses and restricting people’s movements. Government officials have taken unprecedented steps, seemingly without much calculation or forethought. In New York, for instance, Governor Andrew Cuomo insisted on March 18 that he would not approve a shelter-in-place order; by March 20, he praised California’s lockdown and announced Gotham’s own stay-at-home regime. New York and many other states have extended these orders indefinitely.

May 01, 2020

The Wall Street Journal: Government’s Ambulance Chasers

One of the most essential responses to a pandemic is ensuring medical providers can adapt quickly to meet new demands. Yet recently an all-female EMT brigade in New York, a family-run ambulance business in Ohio and a fifth-generation ambulance company in Florida were all stopped from providing vital medical transportation. Why? Because they couldn’t prove to the government’s satisfaction that their services were “needed.”

July 14, 2020

The Hill: Quarantines for out-of-state visitors exceeds governors’ emergency authority

At the end of June, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced that anyone coming into their states from other states identified as coronavirus “hot spots” — now up to 19 states — are required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Ironically, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York earlier in the pandemic called a similar policy put in place by Rhode Island for those who had been to New York unlawful and threatened to sue. But Cuomo was right then and is wrong now. These travel restrictions are constitutionally dubious and deeply problematic.

July 14, 2020

The limits of a governor’s emergency powers

Even in a public health emergency, the constitution still matters. That's one lesson we can take from the restraining order issued by a California judge on June 12 halting one of Governor Gavin Newsom's emergency orders. The ruling argued that Newsom's order overstepped his office's authority, infringing upon the legislature's lawmaking powers. The ...

June 11, 2020

Governments can’t use COVID-19 as an excuse for arbitrary and unconstitutional policies

This week, Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit in Connecticut challenging unconstitutional policies enacted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Until today, PLF has not filed lawsuits challenging shutdown and other emergency orders. As the country has struggled to flatten the curve of infections, our primary strategy has been challenging new ...

May 19, 2020

Napa County art gallery objects to arbitrary reopening order

Today Pacific Legal Foundation is putting Governor Gavin Newsom and Napa County officials on notice that their reopening plans are arbitrarily depriving individuals of their ability to responsibly resume business, which presents serious constitutional concerns. We've written this letter in support of Quent and Linda Cordair, owners of Quent Cordair ...

May 14, 2020

Avoiding government overreach in the COVID-19 recovery

Too often, government makes bad situations worse. States have broad powers to protect the health and safety of their citizens—especially during emergencies like the COVID-19 outbreak, but many overreaching and arbitrary government policies having little to do with public safety have made the situation more painful and destructive than necessary. ...

April 30, 2020

Restrictive housing policies put low-income city residents at risk during COVID-19

In the 19th century, epidemics and crowded tenement housing went hand in hand. Cholera, smallpox, and even the bubonic plague swept through America's slum housing in numbers that make the COVID-19 epidemic seem like a case of the sniffles. Unfortunately, today's housing policies in many urban areas make low-income and minority city residents most a ...

April 02, 2020

Ten examples of companies innovating to make our lives better during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused incredible turmoil and pain for millions of people around the world. This uncertainty has inspired many to call for government to step in and fight the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that hospitals and critical industries have the resources and supplies they need. While government policies have a role in ...

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