Opportunity Atlas Creates Opportunities for Legal Epidemiology

By Amy Cook

Public health experts know that the social determinants of health—the environments in which we live, work, learn, and play—all have important effects on our health and well-being. As further evidence of this, in October 2018, researchers from Opportunity Insights collaborated with the Census Bureau to unveil the Opportunity Atlas, an interactive tool tracking data from more than 20 million Americans from childhood through their mid-30s, across each of the country’s 70,000 census tracts. The Opportunity Atlas gives us crucial insight into the level of geography that can impact adult outcomes: beyond the state and city, the neighborhood matters, sometimes tremendously. Read More

Abortion rights protest following the Supreme Court decision for Whole Women's Health in 2016

Louisiana TRAP Law Challenge Could Leave Thousands of Women without Abortion Access

By Adrienne Ghorashi

UPDATE: Late Thursday, February 7, the Supreme Court granted Plaintiff’s stay application, meaning Louisiana’s TRAP law may not be enforced while the challengers file an appeal. The Supreme Court will then decide whether to hear the case or deny the petition, letting the Fifth Circuit’s ruling stand.

Justice Roberts sided with the Court’s liberal justices to grant the stay, while Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh would deny it. Kavanaugh also wrote a dissent, saying he would want to see the law go into effect before deciding whether the stay was necessary.

Although this is only a temporary win for the women of Louisiana, these actions could be a sign that a majority of justices have their doubts as to the law’s constitutionality in light of Whole Woman’s Health.

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Pennsylvania Not Alone in Denying Abortion Coverage for Low-Income Women

By Adrienne Ghorashi

Last week, a lawsuit was filed challenging Pennsylvania’s decades-old statute restricting the use of state Medicaid funding to pay for abortion services. The lawsuit, brought by a group of abortion providers in the state, claims the restriction discriminates against low-income women on the basis of sex, in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Read More

Cottage Food and Food Freedom Laws – New LawAtlas data

The newest map on LawAtlas.org analyzes state laws governing the production, sale, and regulation of cottage food operations.

Typically, commercial food production is required to take place in certified commercial kitchens that are heavily regulated. Cottage foods laws regulate the production and sale of certain foods (foods less likely to cause foodborne illness, such as jams and baked goods) made in home kitchens, rather than a licensed commercial kitchen, and a person’s ability sell them in venues like farm stands or retail stores. Similar state laws, called “food freedom laws,” expand upon cottage food laws to include potentially hazardous products like meat and poultry.

These laws are quickly becoming an increasing area of debate at the state level.  Part of this debate centers on the economic rights of “small-batch” home bakers and cooks versus public health and safety concerns. These private bakers, canners, and cooks want the liberty to sell their products to consumers free from the onerous licensing requirements required of their larger commercial counterparts, restaurants and food processing plants, are subject to.  At the same time, there is concern that this individual economic interest is riding roughshod over existing regulations designed to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses that can be caused by improperly prepared foods.

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Civil Commitment and the Opioid Epidemic: A Call for Research

By Scott Burris, JD

There is a lot of interest in civil commitment these days, as a possible tool to fight two big health problems. As we continue to watch the rates of opioid-related deaths climb, and in the wake of an unfunded emergency declaration by President Trump, some policymakers are looking to involuntarily commit overdose survivors for drug treatment. On the gun violence side, experts like Jeffrey Swanson have argued for applying gun-access restrictions that now cover people subject to long-term civil commitment to those subjected to short-term civil commitment.

With those kinds of ideas in the air, it is important to recognize how little modern data we have on commitment and its effects. In a recent article in the Washington Post discussing commitment for opioid treatment, Michael Stein and Paul Christopher emphasize how little we know. I entirely agree on the need for more research, and offer a couple of things to help.

The first is the Policy Surveillance Program’s LawAtlas dataset that maps civil commitment laws across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. If we’re going to examine these laws and their impact, this is the place to start. We also put out the call to anyone interested in studying this to work with us not only to update this data through 2017, but also to make sure we’re mining these laws and their characteristics for the right information in these circumstances — Are we asking the right questions? Read More

Housing Equity Week in Review

Here’s the latest news from housing law and equity, for the week of November 6-10, 2017:

  • The Public Health Institute released a study that calculates the number of children with lead poisoning in the United States.
  • A new law in Seattle will prevent landlords from screening tenants based on their criminal history, via The Regulatory Review.
  • “It’s time to stop ignoring our crumbling housing code enforcement” — coverage of APHA2017 sessions on housing code enforcement, featuring CPHLR Director Scott Burris and the Five Essential Public Health Law Services Framework developed in collaboration with ChangeLab Solutions and the Network for Public Health Law, via Public Health Newswire.
  • San Jose has a new plan to get downtown landlords to clean up their vacant storefronts using a pilot program that would create a registry of vacant buildings and fine property owners who are neglecting their properties, via NextCity.
  • Civil rights groups are fighting the suspension of a HUD rule they say helps low-income families move to better neighborhoods, via CityLab.
  • Texans voted to loosen some of the tightest home lending restrictions in the country. via Governing.

Housing Equity Week in Review

An update from the world of housing law and equity, for the week of October 30-November 3, 2017

  • New viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, from Megan Sandel, MD, MPH and Matthew Desmond, PhD, says investing in housing for health improves mission and margin.
  • An analysis from the Seattle Times asks, “Will allowing more housing types in some single-family zones make Seattle’s whitest neighborhoods more racially diverse?”
  • As sea levels rise, wealthy people can more easily afford to move to high ground, making gentrification worse, via Yale Climate Connections.
  • A new study finds a correlation between the number of patents a city produces and economic segregation within its limits, via the Atlantic.
  • Benjamin Somogyi argues in the Regulatory Review, to solve the next foreclosure crisis, look to Sacramento
  • New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have approved funding to provide legal defense to low-income tenants at risk of eviction. A look at how free legal help could prevent evictions, via Huffington Post.

Housing Equity Week in Review

The week of Sept. 4-11, 2017 brought more housing-related news from the southeast in the wake of Harvey and Irma, and a few new resources. The latest in housing equity and the law, below:

  • Matthew Desmond writes a Housing State of the Union for the Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty’s Pathways Magazine State of the Union issue. The report emphasizes the home-ownership racial gap, the relationship with the affordability crisis, and the reform that is needed for the mortgage interest tax deduction.
  • A report by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank on gentrification sheds light on the fact that gentrification is not a new phenomenon
  • The New York Times ran an op-ed on the impact of land use regulation on economic growth.
  • Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes about the need to find equilibrium between negative sprawl (such as in Houston) and NIMBYism (as experienced in San Francisco). He asks, “Why can’t we get cities right?”
  • Community Land Trust has a tool for community focused development.

States Tackle Youth Sports Concussions – New Data!

By Benjamin Hartung, JD, Joshua Waimberg, JD, and Nicolas Wilhelm, JD

While brain injuries and studies associated with professional football get the majority of media attention, student athletes, especially young football and soccer players, are also at risk for similar brain injuries. Each year, as many as 300,000 young people suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), more commonly known as concussions, from playing sports.

State governments have responded to the problem of brain injuries in youth sports by adopting laws aimed at reducing the harm that comes from injuries that occur during team practices or events. Delaware was the first state to pass a regulation relating to youth TBIs in 2008, with Washington State following shortly after in 2009. In the years since, all states have passed youth TBI laws, many modeled after the Washington law, that mandate when student athletes are to be removed from the field, how parents should be notified in the event of a concussion, what training is required of athletic coaches, when a student athlete may “return-to-play,” and who may allow this return to the field. Read More

Housing Equity Week in Review

Much of the devastation from Harvey is centered on homes and housing. Our focus this week is on the housing and equity issues related to displacement, and recovery and development in the future. The news from the world of housing after Harvey, for the week of August 28-September 5, 2017:

  • Although tenants’ homes are under water, their landlords are still demanding that they pay rent. Texas law allows a tenant or a landlord to terminate a contract due to a natural disaster only if the property is “totally unusable,” via the Guardian.
  • Harvey will dramatically change the housing market in Houston for a long time. Once a city with a glut of rental properties, Houston almost overnight became a city without enough habitable housing units. Some estimate that 60,000 units have been damaged in the storm, about 85 percent of all available units before the storm. Rents are expected to go up as much as 10 percent in the area, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Susan Popkin at the Urban Institute writes on the importance of inclusive development and learning from the past after a disaster.
  • Follow the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s updates on Hurricane Harvey housing recovery
  • Although unrelated to Harvey, still in Texas: The Austin American-Statesman reports Austin sues Texas for a law preempting the city’s “source of income” discrimination protection.