Recent comments by Alabama's State Health Officer Scott Harris regarding transgender laws have breathed new life into legislation changing how the State Health Officer role is appointed.

Harris said during an appearance at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Tuesday in response to a question by an audience member asking what the Alabama Department of Public Health plans to do in response to the state's restrictions on "gender-affirming health care” that “we absolutely are appalled by some of the stuff that we’ve seen.”

Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation in 2022 that made it illegal to provide puberty blockers, artificial hormones and sex surgery operations for children under 19 years old.

"A lot of this stuff outrages all of us," Harris continued. "It's really tempting to want to lash out at people. I'm not critical of people who do that. I would say, as a state agency, that's not for us to do that … Any trans legislation, it's coming from these national think tanks that go 'what's going to bring voters out for our party?'"

Legislation by State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) changing how the State Health Officer is appointed was amended on the Senate floor on Thursday. The bill will likely be voted on next week.

Givhan said in an interview Thursday that Harris’ comments “made a significant difference."

“I think we’ve got some momentum right now to get that going. A member of the minority party had some questions about it,” Givhan said. “We’ll see how that goes next week when we bring it back up on the floor.”

The current version of Senate Bill 171 would make the State Health Officer role a position appointed by the governor from a list of names submitted by the State Committee of Public Health. The person in the role would serve at the pleasure of the Governor.

If the bill passes the Senate next week, it would still need to pass a House committee and the full House.

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