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

PLF asks 14 state governors to liberate America’s healthcare system

Brewster Ambulance Service is a family-owned business that provides transportation to sick and disabled people in Collier County, Florida. Although they are based in Naples, they are willing and able to provide transportation to coronavirus patients in other counties, but are prohibited by the state’s Certificate of Need laws. PLF has asked Gov Ron DeSantis to suspend Florida’s CON law and the similar laws in 13 other states. Our op-ed in The Wall Street Journal highlights two other absurd stories of restricting the supply of medical services during a pandemic. 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

April 27, 2020

Issues & Insights: Are Continued Shutdown Orders Constitutional?

With Americans under an unprecedented web of orders to stay inside – with “non-essential” businesses, lives, and livelihoods on hold while staggering costs mount – an increasing number are asking: are the shutdown orders constitutional? Don’t state or federal constitutions guarantee my right to travel, to earn a living, or to attend church, even if the government demands otherwise?

April 10, 2020

Are quarantine orders constitutional?

The question on many minds during our time of quarantine: How far can state government officials go in curtailing constitutional rights like the freedom of association, free exercise of religion, and right to travel among and between the states, in service to public safety by reducing the spread of the coronations?

March 26, 2020

How is COVID-19 affecting current Supreme Court cases?

This week, Pacific Legal Foundation Senior Attorney, Mark Miller, joined Host Tim Farley on The Morning Briefing on the P.O.T.U.S. channel on Sirius XM radio. During the show Mark discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic could affect the cases currently before the Court and the constitutional issues that the Court is deliberating.

May 1, 2020

The Wall Street Journal: Government’s Ambulance Chasers

In most states, ‘certificate-of-need’ laws stand in the way of new medical facilities and services. 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.”

May 4, 2020

Townhall: Federalism doesn’t pause during a pandemic

As the COVID-19 lockdowns continues to grind on in most states, President Trump has signaled an intense desire for state governors to reopen their respective states. This pressure has ranged from the subtle to the overt. In one particularly alarming development, the president even went so far as to declare that the decision to lift the current stay at home orders is his to make, not state governors.

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. ...

May 07,2020

Liberty can rebuild America after COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused incredible uncertainty in so many aspects of people's lives. Unfortunately, but predictably, much of that uncertainty and turmoil has been caused by government policies and actions. Almost as soon as state and federal responses to COVID-19 began, PLF started fielding calls about our thoughts on the emergency orders ...

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 16,2020

To combat COVID-19, Florida must suspend its Certificate of Need Laws

Today, in support of Brewster Ambulance Service, PLF called on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to suspend the state's Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) requirement for ambulances. That law puts the interests of incumbent providers above Florida entrepreneurs and consumers and blocks health care providers from providing vital ser ...

April 08,2020

Certificate of Need laws limited healthcare capacities in the years leading up to COVID-19

Temporary hospitals are popping up all over New York in anticipation of a growing number of coronavirus patients and an undersupply of hospital beds. The U.S. has just 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 Americans⸺even fewer than Italy (3.2) and drastically lower than South Korea (12.3). But those so-called "field" hospitals, hidden beneath makeshift ten ...

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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