MONTGOMERY — The Senate passed a bill changing how the State Health Officer is appointed on Tuesday.

The State Committee of Public Health, currently made up of 12 members of the Medical Association for the State of Alabama (MASA), appoints the State Health Officer.

Under the bill by State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), the Governor would appoint the State Health Officer from a list of candidates submitted by the State Committee of Public Health. 

The bill would also change the makeup of the State Committee of Public Health to seven members of MASA, the Governor or a Governor's designee, a physician appointed by the Alabama Medical Directors Association, a physician appointed by the Alabama State Society of Anesthesiologists, and two physicians from the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians. Additional appointees would come from the Council on Dental Health, Council on Animal and Environmental Health, Council on Prevention of Disease and Medical Care, and Council on Health Costs, Administration and Organization.

The bill would authorize the Governor to approve or deny certain actions proposed by the State Health Officer and would prohibit certain general emergency rules, orders, and other directives issued by the State Health Officer from taking effect unless approved by the Governor.

"I think there was a little bit concern about MASA having a lot of influence over the State Health Officer and they did, but I think that it only makes sense to set up the majority of your peers to evaluate you and find the best person to serve. We whittled that down, kept just as many physicians on there but they don't have to be a member of MASA to get on that committee," Melson told reporters on Tuesday. 

Senate Bill 74 (SB74) by State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) would've gone further and allowed the Governor to appoint the State Health Officer. A similar bill from Givhan passed the Healthcare Committee in 2023 but never received a vote on the Senate floor.

Givhan, who voted for Melson's bill, told 1819 News on Tuesday, "It was not ideal but, you know, there's a process and that's the way the process ended up at least for this body."

"We'll see what happens when it goes over to the House of Representatives," Givhan said. 

Melson's bill passed the Senate unanimously.

"It's an issue that several of us have been looking at for several years now and I'm glad to see something moving in this direction," State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) said on the Senate floor.

The bill now heads to the House for their consideration.

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