Public Health Law News

October 2017


Pre-Conference Workshop About Public Health Law at American Public Health Association Conference.external icon CDC’s Public Health Law Program (PHLP) will present “Public Health Law: Understanding It and Using It (to Your Advantage),” an interactive course that will provide an introduction to public health law principles and key sources of law, highlighting the relationship between US law and public health practice. Speakers will explain the increasingly transdisciplinary nature of public health practice, provide specific case studies, and describe tools and resources available to help increase competency in public health law. The three-hour course will take place Sunday, November 5, 2017, 8:00–11:30 am ET (*Please note, this is the same day that daylight saving time ends). Registration is $175.

Symposium: Exploring New Technologies in Biomedical Research.external icon The Human Toxicology Project Consortium is collaborating with Emory University School of Law to showcase biomedical research innovations using human mechanistic biological models. The symposium is for scientists, lawyers, students, and other members of the public health community to learn about bio-technology, computer science, and engineering approaches in drug and device development. This free symposium will take place October 23, 2017, 9:00 am–1:30 pm (EDT).

Rural Health and the Law: Emerging Issues and Trends.external icon PHLP and American Health Lawyers Association are co-sponsoring the third and final webinar in a three-part series, “Hot Topics at the Intersection of Public Health and Health Care.” This webinar will discuss state-level rural health policies, federal payment policies, and increases in telecommunication, all of which allow healthcare and public health organizations to better serve rural communities. This free webinar will take place November 14, 2017, 1:00–2:30 pm (EST).

CDC Externships in Public Health Law. PHLP offers externships in public health law, tribal public health, and administration and communications. The externships consist of 9–14 weeks of professional work experience with PHLP in Atlanta, Georgia. With rolling start and completion dates during the academic year, unpaid externships must qualify for academic credit as authorized by law and public health schools. Applications for spring 2017 positions are due by November 1, 2017.

Call for Submissions.external icon The University of Memphis Law Review is seeking submissions for a symposium titled “The American Addiction: Pathways to Address the Opioid Crisis.” Manuscripts should analyze novel legal issues arising at an event of opioid exposure or opioid-related injury or overdose, with a view toward leveraging the law to mitigate the epidemic. Completed manuscripts should be sent to by January 19, 2018.

Legal Tool

Public Health Law Academy.external icon This online training, created by PHLP and ChangeLab Solutions, helps public health professionals understand the role our legal system has played, and continues to play, in improving overall population health. The training offers three courses: Introduction to Public Health Law, Legal Epidemiology Review, and Hot Topics in Public Health Law.

Top Stories

Georgia: A hospital crisis is killing rural communities. This state is ‘ground zero.’external icon
Huffington Post (09/22/2017) Lauren Weber and Andy Miller

Story Highlights
Rural hospitals across America are vulnerable to closing. Since 2010, 82 rural hospitals have closed, forcing thousands of people to travel farther for medical treatment and spend more time on treatment, while also reducing their access to emergency care.

The loss of rural hospitals not only impedes access to vital medical care, but it psychologically affects patients as well. Rural residents might feel as though they have lost a part of their identity and their sense of community. They are often emotionally tied to their hospital and feel more comfortable receiving care there, rather than traveling far away.

More than half of rural hospitals in Georgia are in danger of closing. “The Southeast of the US is where things are going horribly wrong. You’ve got higher levels of obesity, diabetes, hypertension ― you pick up any health disparity or measure and it’s there,” said Morgan Alan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. “And again this is where now we are shutting down rural hospitals.”

Florida: Gov. Scott declares state of emergency to help Puerto Rico recoveryexternal icon
Orlando Sentinel (10/02/2017) Gray Rohrer

Story Highlights
Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in all counties to provide services to Puerto Ricans escaping the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

Under the declaration, state officials may waive regulations as needed to facilitate their response efforts. In addition, price gouging is prohibited, emergency shelters will open, and state surplus funds will go toward helping evacuees.

Scott also said that disaster relief centers will be available at Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport, and the Port of Miami. These centers will guide Puerto Ricans to the specific resources they need within the state, including job opportunities and education for children.

However, Florida lawmakers say the state will need to take additional steps to provide enough jobs and housing. They expect more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans to come to Florida in Maria’s wake.

[Editor’s note: Read Governor Scott’s emergency declaration pdf icon[PDF – 2.11MB]external icon.]

Michigan: Local soda, food taxes banned by Michigan lawmakersexternal icon   (10/04/2017)

Story Highlights
The Michigan Senate voted on October 4, 2017, to ban local excise taxes on food and beverages. While no local jurisdictions in Michigan are currently considering such taxes, several other jurisdictions around the country, including Chicago, Illinois, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and San Francisco and Oakland, California, have already passed similar provisions.

The taxes the Michigan Senate seeks to preempt at the local level is often called “soda tax,” “sugar-sweetened beverage tax,” or “junk food tax” and are aimed at reducing obesity and other health issues associated with unhealthy foods.

Currently, most food sold at grocery stores is exempt from Michigan’s state sales tax; only food and beverages sold at restaurants is subject to Michigan’s existing food tax, while cigarettes and alcohol are taxed under separate tax provisions.

Senator Peter MacGregor, the bill’s sponsor, raised concerns that local taxes on food were revenue-based and would “destroy local economies” and “hurt a huge segment” of Michigan’s population.

Senator Rebekah Warren, an opponent of the bill, said the proposed law would have “absolutely zero immediate, practical impact” because no local government is currently proposing such a tax. She went on to say the legislature “should be working together . . . to give out local communities the tools to strengthen municipal finance because standing here to take one more tool away just puts them in an even tougher position.”

The bill has not yet been considered or voted upon by the Michigan House of Representatives.

[Editor’s note: Read Michigan Senate Bill 0583external icon and learn more about sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and public health strategies related to nutrition, physical activity, and obesity.]

Briefly Noted

Florida: Nursing home blames Florida Power & Light, state for 8 deaths after Hurricane Irmaexternal icon
Palm Beach Post (09/15/2017) John Pacenti

Kentucky: Opioids on trial: can lawsuits help fix the addiction crisis?external icon
WFPL (10/02/2017) Aaron Payne

Louisiana: Congress passes tax breaks for 2017 hurricane victims, but leaves Louisianans waitingexternal icon
The Advocate (10/03/2017) Bryn Stole

Louisiana: We have a cure for hepatitis C. But the neediest can’t afford it. Louisiana wants to change thatexternal icon
Vox (09/27/2017) Joshua Sharfstein, Joy Lee and Rena Conti
[Editor’s note: Read 28 USC § 1498 of the US patent lawexternal icon.]

Missouri: HIV laws in US: Missouri man gets 10 years for spreading HIVexternal icon
International Business Times (09/24/2017) Ishani Roy
[Editor’s note: Learn more about HIV-specific criminal laws.]

Nevada: Las Vegas shooting: Nevada governor declares ‘public health and medical emergency’external icon
Newsweek (10/02/2017) Jessica Kwong
[Editor’s note: Read the Nevada Governor’s Declaration of Emergencyexternal icon for the October 1, 2017 mass shooting in Clark County, Nevada.]

New Jersey: New Jersey Supreme Court reminder – don’t forget about the corporate practice of medicineexternal icon
National Law Review (09/21/2017) Ryan Cuthbertson
[Editor’s note: Read Allstate Ins. Co. v. Northfield Med. Ctr., PCexternal icon.]

New York: Officer’s death intensifies scrutiny of herbal supplementexternal icon
ABC News (10/02/2017) Mary Esch

Ohio: Akron couple indicted on charges of human trafficking; they are first in Summit County charged under state trafficking lawexternal icon
Akron Beacon Journal (09/22/2017) Stephanie Warsmith
[Editor’s note: Read Ohio’s Trafficking in Persons lawexternal icon.]

Puerto Rico: Trump waives U.S. shipping restrictions for Puerto Ricoexternal icon
Reuters (09/27/2017)
[Editor’s note: Read the Jones Actexternal icon.]

National: Doctors who take pharmaceutical money use Twitter to hype drugsexternal icon
Reuters (09/11/2017) Ronnie Cohen
[Editor’s note: Read the article Conflicts of interest in Twitterexternal icon.]

National: Federal appeals court blocks San Francisco law requiring health warnings on sodaexternal icon
Los Angeles Times (09/19/2017) Maura Dolan
[Editor’s note: Read the appeal from the United States District Court pdf icon[PDF – 449KB]external icon.]

National: FDA approves first test for screening Zika virus in blood donationsexternal icon
US Food and Drug Administration   (10/05/2017)

Global Public Health Law
Profile in Public Health Law: Montrece McNeill Ransom, JD, MPH
Photo: Montrece McNeill Ransom, JD, MPH

Title: Team Lead for Training and Workforce Development, PHLP, Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support, CDC

Education: BA in speech communications, Columbus State University; JD, University of Alabama; MPH, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

Public Health Law News (PHLN):How did you become interested in law and, more specifically, public health law?

Ransom:I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was about eight years old. In law school, I focused on employment law, but I quickly realized I wasn’t interested in a traditional legal career, and I committed to a career in public service, in some capacity.

When I was appointed as a Presidential Management fellow to CDC in June 2001, I wasn’t sure how my law degree or legal skillset would be used. But, a series of experiences—including serving in the CDC Emergency Operations Center (EOC) after the 9/11 attacks less than six months after my appointment, and a series of mentors, including Gene Matthews, former CDC general counsel—helped me understand the important role law plays in advancing public health goals. Those experiences gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my career and make a place for myself in public health law.

PHLN:What does law have to do with public health?

Ransom:I can’t think of one public health issue or challenge that can be solved without some contribution of a legal or policy solution. And, from my perspective, there is no public health without the law. From the creation of a health department, which is done by statute, or the passing of a clean indoor air ordinance, it is law that creates the framework that helps make healthy choices the norm. Once we understand the science and evidence-base, it takes the strategic power of the law to move us to lasting changes in health outcomes.

PHLN:Please describe your career path.

Ransom:I began my career in public health when I was a fellow. My first appointment was with the Financial Management Office, Congressional and Legislative Branch, where one of my primary responsibilities was planning visits for members of Congress and their staff to CDC. In September, after the 9/11 attacks, I was asked to serve as an operations analyst in the EOC, where I was introduced to Anthony Moulton, who was serving as the first director of CDC’s Public Health Law Program (PHLP). He asked me to join his team on a three-month detail to help plan the first national conference on public health law. Moving from the Financial Management Office to PHLP was a turning point in my career. I spent the next eight years working directly at the intersection of law and public health. Not only was I involved in shaping the beginnings of PHLP (the program was founded in 2000), but I also had the opportunity to direct the CDC Community Public Health Legal Preparedness Initiative, serve as the lead coordinator for CDC’s annual Public Health Law Conference, and develop unique partnerships between CDC and the American Bar Association and the American Health Lawyers Association.

In 2009, I earned a master’s degree in public health and spent the next two years working in the National Center for Environmental Health on the National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures project. In 2011, I received a phone call from Matthew Penn, who had just accepted the position as director of PHLP, and he asked me to return to PHLP. I’d worked with Matthew previously, when he was an attorney for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, so the answer was an easy yes.

I specifically asked to lead PHLP’s training and workforce development efforts. I was able to build a program from scratch and contribute to ensuring that public health practitioners across the country understand the role of law in their everyday practice of public health.

PHLN:What do you do in your current position?

Ransom:As the team lead for public health law training and workforce development, my current focus is on increasing the competency of the public health law workforce to use law as a public health tool. I develop competency models; develop and deliver webinars and in-person training in public health law; and oversee the workforce development components of CDC’s first cooperative agreement focused on building the legal capacity of the public health workforce.

I present trainings, teach courses, and publish on a broad range of topics, including introduction to public health law, public health emergency law, careers in public health, law and ethics, and environmental public health law.

PHLN:What kind of people do you train?

Ransom:Everyone! We take the concept of “workforce development” very seriously! While our primary training audience tends to be state, tribal, local, and territorial public health practitioners and lawyers, we have offered training to a wide variety of partners across the health system, including law and public health students, healthcare providers, health lawyers, and members of professional organizations, such as the National Environmental Health Association, the American Health Lawyers Association, and the American Planning Association.

PHLN:Congratulations! You recently won the American Public Health Association (APHA) Law Section Jennifer Robbins award. Can you please tell use a little bit about the award?

Ransom:Thank you! The Jennifer Robbins Award for the Practice of Public Health Law is offered by the APHA’s Law Section. It recognizes an individual, typically at mid-career, for outstanding dedication and leadership in the field of public health law. Jennifer Robbins (1940–1987) was a public health lawyer who practiced in the Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. She subsequently served as an assistant attorney general in Maryland and was principal counsel for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

I will be presented with the award at the Health Law Section reception at the APHA Annual Meeting on November 6. This is a huge honor, and it feels really good to have my contributions to the field be recognized by my peers! It’s an extra special occasion because we will be launching the Public Health Law Academy at the meeting as well.

PHLN:What is the Public Health Law Academy (the Academy)?

Ransom:It’s an online, on-demand set of trainings developed by PHLP and ChangeLab Solutions (CLS). The overall strategy of the Academy is to infuse the public health workforce with improved competencies, confidence, and information needed to use legal and policy tools in evidence-based strategies to improve population health outcomes.

The training resources are easy to access and should be helpful to public health practitioners and health system partners, across all subject matter areas and levels of government. The trainings are hosted on a CDC-branded version of the Public Health Foundation’s TRAIN platform as a primary vehicle for reaching the target audience.

PHLN:What kind of courses are in the Academy? Who might find them useful?

Ransom:Currently, there are nine trainings in three clusters—

  1. Introduction to Public Health Law
  2. Hot Topics in Public Health Law
  3. A series of overview trainings on legal epidemiology

Our introduction to public health law trainings explore the integral role that the law plays in the everyday practice of public health. It covers core public health law concepts that all public health practitioners need to know and includes courses about the history of public health law, preemption, and the structure of government.

Additionally, public health law is constantly evolving in response to public health emergencies like natural disasters, the opioid epidemic, and healthcare shortages. We have trainings in the Public Health Law Academy to address these issues, and our goal is to stay abreast of emerging issues so that the Academy is providing timely, relevant training opportunities.

And, our legal epidemiology trainings are for public health practitioners interested in studying the connection between laws and public health.

These trainings are essential for all public health professionals, especially those at the local, state, or federal levels, who need to have a clear understanding of our legal system and the role it has played and continues to play in improving overall population health. Yet, despite this integral role, most public health practitioners and health professionals don’t receive any formal public health law training. So, I hope that our partners across the health spectrum find the Academy useful.

PHLN:How was the Academy created?

Ransom:It is a core project of a cooperative agreement between CDC and CLS—the Public Health Law Capacity Building Cooperative Agreement. PHLP and CLS have spent the last four years working with subject matter experts, leaders in curriculum design, and continuing education experts to develop the Academy.

PHLN:What is the State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial (STLT) Public Health Attorney Institute (the Institute)?

Ransom:It is a new training initiative offered by PHLP and consists of an intensive 2.5 day course designed specifically for attorneys who have been representing a STLT health agency for three years or less. The Institute provides an opportunity for these attorneys to fully immerse themselves in CDC culture in an invitation-only, interactive, boot-camp style training. Attendees are exposed to CDC’s mission and vision, participate in competency-based training on the legal foundations for—and the role of law in—public health practice, and learn best practices in public health law from experts in the field.

PHLN:How do STLT attorneys get to attend the Institute?

Ransom:Currently, invitees are determined based on a nomination process, and final attendees are selected based on a variety of factors, including budget. We limit the number of attendees to 10–12 and are always soliciting names for potential invitees. So, if you know of an attorney who meets the criteria, please send his or her name our way!

PHLN:When is the next Institute?

Ransom:We held a pilot in late August 2017, and it was extremely successful. We are hopeful that we can offer this program annually, and we are looking at mid-to-late June 2018 for the next session.

PHLN:PHLP has a robust internship program. Will you please describe the program, who is eligible for it, and what they might learn?

Ransom:Yes, we do! We offer three internship opportunities. Our Public Health Law Internship opportunity is a formalized entry-level experience for rising and current third-year law students who are interested in exploring careers in public health law. PHLP’s Tribal Public Health Law Internship, also for current and rising third-year law students, focuses on issues at the intersection of tribal and Alaska Native and American Indian law, and public health. And, our Administrative and Communication Internship is specifically for students enrolled in masters-level programs earning degrees in public health, public policy, public administration, communication, business, and similar disciplines. These internships/externships are unpaid, but externship and practicum opportunities are available for students seeking academic credit as authorized by their schools.

Our student interns are exposed to an in-depth understanding of government agency operations, legal epidemiology, and the role of law in advancing public health. Each intern is supervised by a preceptor, and provided with hands-on mentorship and a variety of trainings.

PHLN:When is the deadline for the summer 2018 internship applications?

Ransom:To apply for the summer 2018 internship, students should submit a resume and cover letter to no later than January 31, 2018.

PHLN:What career advice do you have for young public health and public health law practitioners?

Ransom:Bloom where you are planted!

Don’t get boxed into your dream career plan, but make sure you follow your heart. My undergraduate degree is in speech communications, and I thought I’d end up as a corporate trainer. I went on to law school and was considering a career in employment law. When I was appointed as a fellow, I chose CDC primarily because it was in Atlanta, and my parents had retired in Augusta, Georgia—I wanted to be close to my family. I had no real idea of what public health was, and I told myself I’d stay at CDC for two years and then move on to a more “law-focused” career. When I arrived at CDC, I quickly found mentors who helped me discover my personal skill set and passions, and I dove into the substance of public health, which helped me understand and articulate how I—as a lawyer, not in the Office of General Counsel, in an agency full of scientists—could add value to CDC. Sixteen years and so many incredible experiences later, I’m now at the point in my career where I’ve hit the sweet spot—I’m effectively working at the intersection of corporate training, law, and public health. I am the happiest I’ve been in my career, but only because I bloomed where I was planted.

PHLN:Do you have any hobbies?

Ransom:I like to run 5Ks, go camping (glamping!), and travel! In my spare time, I’m also a professional voice actress and provide the voice for a variety of audio and video productions.

Public Health Law News Quiz

The first reader to correctly answer the quiz question will be featured in a mini public health law profile in the November 2017 edition of the News. Email your entry to with “PHL Quiz” as the subject heading; entries without the heading will not be considered. Good luck!

Public Health Law News Quiz Question October 2017

Name the three courses the Public Health Law Academy is currently offering.

Public Health Law NewsQuiz Question September 2017 Winner!
Photo: Jasmine Saunders

Jasmine Saunders

Question: Which state or country adopted Medicare-funded mental health assessments for pregnant women?

Answer: Australia

Employment organization and job title: Loma Linda University, School of Nursing

A brief explanation of your job: I assist faculty and staff in their research endeavors, such as coding statistics and qualitative analysis. I also collect and analyze data for the grants we have received.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in behavioral science with an emphasis in anthropology and minor in chemistry from Andrews University and a master of public health in global health from Loma Linda University

Favorite section of the News: Global Public Health Law

Why are you interested in public health law? I believe that government systems can have the greatest influence on the health of the community. Community health programs and the organizations that influence them can have a positive aspect on public health; however, I am of the opinion it is the policies and laws created by governments that have the most defining effect on community health. As a result, I’m interested in the intersection of public health and law.

What is your favorite hobby? I enjoy playing the cello.

Court Opinions

Missouri: Club gambling room subject to Lottery Commission, but not Gaming Commission regulation, is not a “casino gaming area,” and therefore not exempt from state Smoke Free Air Act
The Trophy Room v. City of St. Louisexternal icon
Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Division One
Case No. ED104714
Filed 09/19/2017
Opinion by Judge Lisa P. Page

Federal: Motions for judgment as a matter of law and new trial denied, $3 million in damages for lack of appropriate warning on antidepressant entered for plaintiff
Dolin v. GlaxoSmithKline, LLCexternal icon
United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Case No. 12 C 6403
Filed 09/14/2017
Opinion by District Judge William T. Hart

Federal: Ordinance requiring health warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages was not purely factual and uncontroversial and was unduly burdensome, chilling beverage association’s first amendment rights
American Beverage Assoc. v. City and County of San Francisco pdf icon[PDF – 449KB]external icon
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Case Nos. 16-16072. 16-1673
Filed 09/19/2017
Opinion by Judge Sandra S. Ikuta

Quote of the Month

Morgan Alan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association

“Those most in need of health services have the fewest options available, and we are closing rural hospitals,”— Morgan Alan on the closing of rural hospitals in Georgia

[Editor’s note: This quote is from A hospital is killing rural communities. This state is ‘ground zero’external icon, Huffington Post, 09/22/2017, by Lauren Weber and Andy Miller]

The Public Health Law Newsis published the third Thursday of each month except holidays, plus special issues when warranted. It is distributed only in electronic form and is free of charge.

The Newsis published by the Public Health Law Program in the Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support.


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Public Health Law News (the News) content is selected solely on the basis of newsworthiness and potential interest to readers. CDC and HHS assume no responsibility for the factual accuracy of the items presented from other sources. The selection, omission, or content of items does not imply any endorsement or other position taken by CDC or HHS. Opinions expressed by the original authors of items included in the News, persons quoted therein, or persons interviewed for the News are strictly their own and are in no way meant to represent the opinion or views of CDC or HHS. References to products, trade names, publications, news sources, and non-CDC websites are provided solely for informational purposes and do not imply endorsement by CDC or HHS. Legal cases are presented for educational purposes only, and are not meant to represent the current state of the law. The findings and conclusions reported in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of CDC or HHS. The News is in the public domain and may be freely forwarded and reproduced without permission. The original news sources and the Public Health Law News should be cited as sources. Readers should contact the cited news sources for the full text of the articles.

Page last reviewed: October 19, 2017