Legislation filed in the Alabama Senate on Wednesday aims at bringing more accountability to the State Health Officer's position.

Sponsored by State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) and nine other senators, Senate Bill 171 would also prohibit "an emergency rule, order or other directive issued by the State Health Officer which would restrict, limit or otherwise burden the conduct of private citizens or businesses from taking effect unless approved by the governor."

If passed, the change would go into effect when there is either a vacancy in the Office of State Health Officer or when a new Governor takes office. 

Givhan said in an interview Wednesday the phase-in portion of the bill is an effort to "take the personalities out of it."

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 his bill is "just a continuation of what we were talking about last time." 

"It's basically trying to limit the State Health Officer, one unelected person, and not connected to an elected person to give any connection to the voters," Givhan said. "I felt strongly then, and I feel strongly now that something of that magnitude that the Governor needs to sign off on it. They did that in tandem as they went through, but he didn't have to. He could've done that on his own. He didn't need the Governor to do that."

Givhan said, "It's just too big of a piece of state government that the State Health Officer runs to not be accountable to the people in any way because he's accountable only to a board."

"That's why I think it's an important bill to make him accountable to the Governor," he added.

Givhan said he hopes to run the bill in the Senate Health Committee next week.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.

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