State Sen. Whatley to reintroduce bill rolling back state of emergency, public health order powers in 2021
Earlier this year, at the very end of the 2020 regular session, State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) along with several other co-sponsors pushed SB334, legislation that limits the powers of the State Health Officer and puts a 14-day limit on the length of time the governor can declare a state of emergency under the Alabama Emergency Management Act of 1955.
The bill never was taken up for consideration, given the rush to end the adjourn sine die in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Whatley vows to take up the measure again in 2021.
During an appearance on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, Whatley said the plan for him and his colleagues is to reintroduce the same bill as he had back in May.
“We’re going to file it exactly like we had it last year as far as I know,” he said. “And like I said at the beginning — this isn’t directed at any one person at all. This is just putting in place a forum for the governor and the legislature to continue to be a process of the budgetary needs for the state of Alabama in the future. And that is what the Constitution calls for, and it gives the people a check on the governor and a check on the legislature.”
“The State Health Officer is not an elected position,” Whatley added. “The State Health Officer is appointed by a committee, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think there is some legislation that might change that. But the governor has no say over what the State Health Officer can do for the first 90 days or something like that … The governor could not do anything if the State Health Officer declared an emergency. And that’s that. This gives the governor a check and the legislature a check and the people of Alabama a check over some unfettered power.”
Whatley was one of a handful of lawmakers to contract the COVID-19 virus. He maintained that despite having a bout with coronavirus, his views on policy dealing with the pandemic had not changed.
“Absolutely not,” he replied when asked. “I believe that we need to have precautions, and people need to take precautions every day with their health. But I do not believe we should have shut down small business in Alabama to do this.”
@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.