Despite making controversial statements earlier this year and being under the scrutiny of some Republican lawmakers, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris is getting a raise. 

On Thursday, the State Board of Health voted unanimously to raise Harris’ salary by 7%. According to the Department of Finance data, Harris currently makes slightly over $307,000 a year. With his new raise, he will make roughly $328,680 in fiscal year (FY) 2024, which begins in October.

As the State Health Officer, Harris oversees the state public health bureaucracy. Unlike other agency heads, he is hired and can only be fired by a board of physicians who are members of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA), a dues-paying organization with its own lobbying mechanisms.

During this year’s legislative session, State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) proposed a bill to reform the ADPH. If passed, the bill would have permitted the governor to appoint the State Health Officer instead. 

Givhan claimed in May that the bill had been "gutted" by "key figures" in the legislature. But after Harris attacked laws prohibiting sex change operations and hormone blockers for minors and claimed opposition to Medicaid expansion was based on a “racist assumption” at a “social justice” event at the University of Alabama Birmingham, Givhan said the bill was starting to gain momentum.

1819 News learned shortly after that Harris was personally reaching out to lawmakers and other state officials to dispute the remarks about the child sex change ban. In response, 1819 News released the raw audio footage and included a word-for-word transcript of the comments. 

In spite of attention from Harris’ critics, Givhan’s bill was indefinitely postponed before the end of the legislative session. 

1819 News reached out to Givhan on Friday. He said he had no comment about the raise but plans to reintroduce legislation to reform ADPH leadership next legislative session. 

State Rep. Mark Shirey (R-Mobile) said he plans to support Givhan’s effort if it makes it to the House. 

“I’m not critical of Dr. Harris personally,” Shirey told 1819 News on Friday. “He can still be the head of the department, sure. I don’t think I would argue that. But there are some things we need to clear up about things he can and can’t do in emergency powers and things we expect of him.”

1819 News also contacted ADPH public information officer Arrol Sheehan for comment about the raise, and she did not respond.

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