MONTGOMERY — State Sen. Sam Givhan's (R-Huntsville) bill to make the state health officer an appointed position by the Governor has been "gutted," he said, by "key figures" in the legislature.

Sponsored by Givhan and nine other senators, Senate Bill 171 would now instead "authorize the Governor to approve or deny certain actions proposed by the State Health Officer, and would prohibit a general emergency rule, order, or other directive issued by the State Health Officer from taking effect unless approved by the Governor"

Givhan told 1819 News on Tuesday he had a substitute amendment planned for the legislation.

The amended bill passed the Senate Healthcare Committee on Wednesday.

"I tried to work all the hoops early, and it's been gutted, frankly. The state health officer would have to recommend [actions] to the governor, but the governor would have to sign off on it," Givhan said on Tuesday. "It would still continue to be appointed; that's where I said it had been gutted. It would not be appointed by the governor." 

Dr. Scott Harris is currently Alabama's State Health Officer. Harris became a prominent fixture in Alabama's COVID-19 policies throughout 2020 and 2021. In Alabama, the state's top health official is selected by the state public health committee, which consists of members appointed by the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. Harris was appointed by the committee in February 2018.

Givhan said he "ran into roadblocks with certain key figures" in the legislature who weren't going to "let that go forward," though he declined to specify who the "key figures" were.

"I struggle with do I get half a loaf or nothing. I decided to take half a loaf," Givhan added. "That would not affect things like 'Joe's Pool Hall' had a bunch of rats in there. The Governor is not going to fool with stuff like that. It would be things that are not unique to one business or one outbreak of Legionnaires or something like that. It could be more certain than a statewide shutdown, but the buck would stop with the Governor. There would be a political consequence to be paid which is part of what I'm trying to accomplish."

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