Alabama Senate debates bill to add lawmaker input during public health emergencies

Updated: Mar. 11, 2021 at 8:48 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama senators debated a bill to limit some of the governor’s power during a public health emergency.

Since the pandemic began a year ago, there have been several statewide public health orders. But several Republican state lawmakers said they want to give more input during future health emergencies.

“We’ve gone a year now, and the legislature has not had an opportunity to engage because there’s no statutory option to do so,” said President Pro Tempore Greg Reed, R-Jasper.

Lawmakers could not pass legislation for many months during the pandemic because they were not in the regular session and they depend on the Governor to call a special session.

Republicans want to change that for future health emergencies. Senators debated a bill Thursday that would require the governor to call the legislature into session after 120 days of a public health emergency in order to extend it, according to the bill sponsor.

Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, is the sponsor of the bill. It also requires the governor to update a legislative council on the health emergency after 45 days.

“Would it be wise for the legislature to have the ability to weigh in on some of these decisions?” Reed asked. “I think it would.”

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, criticized the bill and said the legislature would not always make the right decisions in emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we had to wait on this legislature, we probably would be all dead,” Singleton said.

This bill is just one of several filed during the legislative session aimed at giving the legislature more power for future emergencies.

Gov. Kay Ivey said in a one-on-one interview Thursday that her door is open to lawmakers.

“I think they feel free to come see me and tell me what’s on their mind. But when you’ve got an emergency situation, it’s an emergency,” Ivey said.

The bill would give the governor some more powers.

It would require the governor sign off on emergency health orders issued by the State Health Officer, according to the bill sponsor.

Alabama Senators did not vote on the bill Thursday because of the concerns Democrats had with it.

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