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State. Sen Whatley introduces bill to limit powers of State Health Officer, alter State of Emergency procedures

State Senator Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) has introduced a bill that would limit the powers of the State Health Officer and put a 14-day limit on the amount of time a governor can unilaterally declare a State of Emergency.

If voted into law, the legislation would require the state health officer to get the governor’s approval for directives issued during public health emergencies.

Currently, the state health officer has sole discretion as to how to impose restrictions during a declared State of Emergency.

Whatley’s bill would also make it so that a State of Emergency declared by the governor would require legislative approval to last longer than 14 days.

Whatley’s bill is co-sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and five other Republican members of the upper chamber.

Existing policy allows the governor to declare a State of Emergency for up to 60 days and extend it for whatever length of time is deemed necessary.

Whatley’s idea is to require a joint resolution of the legislature to extend a State of Emergency past 14 days.

If the legislature is not in session, a joint proclamation by the speaker of the House and Senate pro tempore would be required.

“This bill simply improves the system of checks and balances in the state when a state of emergency has been declared,” Whatley said in a release.

The Alabama state health officer is an unelected position, and Whatley is displeased that during a pandemic the person in that role can “close down all businesses in the state without consent from anybody who has received a single vote from an Alabama citizen.”

State Senator Will Barfoot (R-Montgomery) supports the bill and believes that “more voices must be heard” during emergency circumstances.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: [email protected] or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

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