Last week, off-the-cuff remarks given by State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris at a University of Alabama at Birmingham event breathed new life into legislation offered by State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) to reform the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Harris voiced his disapproval of the Alabama Legislature's efforts to prohibit so-called transgender therapy administered to minors. He also rejected the body's unwillingness to expand Medicaid, suggesting the justification was based on racism.
During an interview that aired on Monday's broadcast of Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," Givhan said the legislation had "new life, new legs" based on those developments.
He also dismissed claims his bill empowered the State Health Department or gave the state health officer additional powers.
"It wasn't that the bill was dead," he explained. "It had been gutted. There was an earlier 1819 article about how I was sort of dismayed at how I kind of thought we were at an accord working out some of the changes, and I felt like I did get knocked in the ditch with it. Right now, it's got some new life, new legs. We'll see. Expected to have it on the floor of the Senate [Tuesday] because it is at the call of the chair."
"I may have an amendment on there," Givhan continued. "There were some people who were concerned we are actually giving more power to the state health officer. I'm trying to let them realize he's got the power now. There is nothing I've got in my bill that gives him more power. My bill, my substitute, as it is now, would check power of the state health officer by requiring statewide emergencies to go through the Governor's signature. But, you know, there are people who are trying to twist this and go, 'Now they can require a vaccination.' No, that is done by another statute. It's limited, and that's not the intention at all. You're talking to somebody here who neither I nor my wife have had the COVID vaccination and have no intention of getting it. So, I'm not interested in going there at all."
The Madison County GOP lawmaker said if the legislation makes it to the floor, he believed his Republican colleagues would be compelled to vote for it.
"It's like a lot of things, Jeff — I think the reality is that if it comes up for a vote, most Republicans are going to have to vote for it or take a walk," he said. "Even if they don't like it, and I know at least one who doesn't like it — and I understand their reasoning for it. But it has been too much of a political hot potato. It really shouldn't be. It should be about how do we run state government. Do we run government with accountability to the people or not? And right now, the state health department is not accountable to the people whatsoever, and we are trying to afford some accountability to the people. It's going to be hard for a Republican to vote against it, but again I've got to get it to the floor."
Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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