State Sen. Barfoot: Expect effort from legislature to pare down, take away state health officer’s authority to shut down businesses, churches
On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced she was extending the statewide mask mandate through March 5, exercising powers granted to her under the coronavirus emergency.
The edict is a far cry from last year’s statewide shutdown, which was imposed at the direction of State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. However, according to State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), there will be an effort to change some aspects of executive authority regarding the Emergency Management Act of 1955 on the table when the legislature meets for its 2021 regular session in less than two weeks.
During an appearance on “The Jeff Poor Show” on FM Talk 106.5 in Mobile, Barfoot touted legislation originally introduced by State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) last year to be reintroduced this year, which could “pare down” the State Health Officer’s authority and give the legislature a say in the extension of an emergency order.
“In my opinion, if session had not been halted last year like it was, the Senate at least would have passed Senator Whatley’s bill, and I suspect that — well, I know that bill is coming up,” Barfoot explained. “I’m a co-sponsor on that again. The purpose of that bill is not to belittle or cast aspersions on any one individual. It’s the Emergency Management Act of 1955, which grants certain authority and powers to an unelected position, the state health officer position. No matter who that may be, tomorrow or 15, 20 years from now — Senator Whatley’s bill, in essence, would grant some of that authority, or pull back some of that authority from that unelected position and give it rightly to the chief executive of the state, an elected official, and at this point, Governor Ivey, and then also have some balance from the legislative branch. You know, our nation was built on judicial, executive and legislative branches having co-equal amounts of authority and there’s a balancing act there. And that’s also true for the state. And I guess since March, May, whenever we officially sine died, the legislative body has really not had a say because we haven’t been in session. The only way we can be called back into session is by the governor’s special session.”
“We’re looking forward to addressing Senator Whatley’s bill and hopefully making some changes that would maybe pare down that authority or take that authority away to arbitrarily shut down businesses and people’s lives, churches from an unelected official,” he added. “Again, not a dis at Dr. Harris, who has been in a difficult, difficult position. But it would simply be giving the governor the authority to make those decisions. She is the highest elected official of the executive branch in the state. And then also, as I said, some balance from the legislative body where when we’re in session, we can elect to extend any emergency orders or not. When we’re not in session, you still would have the Speaker of the House as well as the Pro-Tem to be able to sign off on a resolution one way or another as it relates to those executive emergency orders.”
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.