MONTGOMERY — The House Health Committee advanced legislation on Wednesday that would change how the State Health Officer is appointed and alter the makeup of Alabama's State Committee of Public Health.

The State Committee of Public Health, currently composed of 12 members of the Medical Association for the State of Alabama (MASA) board of censors and four additional state chairs, appoints the State Health Officer.

Senate Bill 128 (SB128) by State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) would require the governor to appoint the State Health Officer from a list of candidates submitted by the State Committee of Public Health. The bill also removes the synonymous relationship between MASA and the Committee of Public Health.

Alabama law states that MASA "is the state board of health." Melson's bill removes that provision and replaces it with the following:

"The State Board of Health is abolished. All powers and duties of the State Board of Health, as those powers and duties exist on September 30, 2024, are conferred upon the State Committee of Public Health."

The amended bill changes the makeup of the State Committee of Public Health, removing MASA appointees over time, with significant changes occurring in May 2027.

Beginning May 1, 2027, the State Committee of Public Health will comprise eight physicians appointed by MASA. Additionally, the Alabama State Society of Anesthesiologists, the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Alabama Medical Directors Association, the Council on Dental Health, the Council on Animal and Environmental Health, the Council on the Prevention of Disease and Medical Care, and the Council on Health Costs, Administration, and Organization will each receive one appointment.

The bill also allows the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, or President Pro Tempore of the Senate to petition the committee to override or discipline the state health officer if a majority agrees on some official wrongdoing.

Health Committee Chairman Paul Lee (R-Dothan)  presented the bill before the committee, offering amendments to which he said Melson was "in complete agreement."

State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) complained that the bill did not have enough inclusive language, explicitly appointing more African American physicians.

Besides Hall's brief protest, the committee had no other debate on the bill, which passed with Hall as the only "no" vote. The bill now goes to the House floor for a vote.  

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