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‘Too much power’: State Sen. Givhan decries health emergency authority of exec branch

Last year, State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) introduced a bill that would require the Legislature to approve emergency declaration extensions given by the governor after two weeks. The legislation would have also required the governor to approve health emergency declarations made by the state health officer.

While the bill ended up passing the Alabama Senate, it failed to gain traction in the lower chamber. Some Republicans believe the issue needs to be taken up again next session.

State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) joined WVNN’s “The Yaffee Program” on Tuesday and argued for a change in the emergency health powers held by Alabama’s executive branch.

“[W]e felt like we ran into a brick wall,” Givhan said, “in trying to curtail the governor’s powers. Of course it was under all this, ‘Oh, we don’t know where all this is going and we need to keep it the way it is.'”

The Alabama lawmaker said many conservatives were frustrated at the mandates and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability of the Legislature to do anything about it.

Givhan said he met Republicans on the campaign trail, some of whom were previous residents of states such as Maryland and Massachusetts, who told him they believed “Alabama would be more conservative than it is.”

While the state senator disagreed with some of Gov. Kay Ivey’s actions during the pandemic, he said that was not the main reason why he wants to curb some of the governor’s power in this area.

“[I]t’s not Governor Ivey,” he continued, “it’s just you don’t know who the governors will be in the future, how they’ll use that power. Governor Ivey has admitted she made a mistake in shutting down the economy in the period of time she did shut it down, but I think that we need to tamp that power.”

Givhan also believes the state health officer also has too much power, and hopes lawmakers will be able to pass a law to provide more checks and accountability to that office.

“I think the state’s medical officer’s got too much power,” he argued. “He does not report to the governor, he reports to a board of doctors, and I’m not comfortable with that at all.”

He noted that even though the issue failed to be resolved last year in the Legislature, he believes there will still be an strong effort by many to get it done in the next session.

“There will be a push on it,” he said, “I don’t know how well it will be received, but there will be a push on it. We need, the constituents need to reach out to their representatives and give us the backing that we need to get that done and let everybody know that this is across the board … I think that what was really driving it is that was bubbling through constituencies all across the state … it was spreading across the state and that’s something where we need people to reach out to their representatives.”

On Tuesday, Givhan won reelection for Senate District 7 with 62.74% of the vote.

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” Weekdays 9-11am on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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