The Alabama Legislature is poised to address the State Health Officer's appointment and scope of authority through several bills filed in both legislative houses.
One area that got notice in 2023 but was thwarted by Democrat lawmakers was reforming the antiquated law governing the Alabama Department of Public Health and its leadership under the direction of the State Health Officer.
The process and authority of Alabama’s State Health Officer continues to concern those who identified a potential glitch in the system after the COVID pandemic—a glitch that ended in devastation for some Alabama business owners.
State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) says he still plans to file a bill changing the appointment method of the State Health Officer despite a recent administrative rule passed by the Alabama Department of Public Health limiting the emergency powers of the State Health Officer.
On Friday's broadcast of Huntsville radio WVNN's "The Dale Jackson Show," State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) reacted to the Alabama Department of Public Health's (ADPH) self-imposed "accountability measures," and if those would be sufficient for the power-wielding agency to avoid action from the Alabama Legislature.
Having the governor appoint a state health officer will not correct the deficiencies of our emergency powers laws, but the debate might encourage reforms before the next pandemic.
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.
Givhan’s bill provides needed reforms that would potentially curtail the powers of the State Health Officer. Stronger restrictions and oversight provisions should be added to ensure that it does that.
The turnover in the Alabama Legislature headed into the new quadrennium, combined with new leadership in the House of Representatives, has made State House expectations somewhat of a wildcard for 2023 and beyond.