Alabama Senators file bill to improve “state of emergency” declaration process

This week Alabama Senator Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) filed a bill to improve the system of checks and balances so that more elected officials are included in the process of declaring a state of emergency.

Under current law, a state of emergency automatically terminates after 60 days unless the Governor extends it or it is extended by joint resolution in the Legislature. Senate Bill 334 would automatically end a state of emergency after 14 days unless an extension was approved through a joint resolution from the Legislature.

Additionally, this bill would require the Governor to sign a health order issued by the State Health Officer during a disease or pandemic outbreak for it to go into effect. Currently the State Health officer is the only person required to sign a state health order.

“This bill simply improves the system of checks and balances in the state when a state of emergency has been declared,” Sen. Whatley said. “This legislation would require the Governor to sign a state of emergency declaration and limit the time that the state can operate in a state of emergency without approval from both chambers of the Legislature. Currently the State Health officer, who is appointed by a special interest group of doctors and not elected by the people, has the ability to close down all businesses in the state without consent from anybody who has received a single vote from an Alabama citizen. The Governor still has emergency powers but this bill involves more people and creates a better and more inclusive process in the decision-making process especially when the stability of the entire state is at stake.”

Senator Will Barfoot (R-Montgomery), a proponent of the bill wanted to see more elected officials involved with decision making.

“This is not aimed at any person individually. The medical community and the State Health officer in particular is doing the best job they could under the circumstance,” Senator Barfoot said. “However, as many moving pieces as there are in managing a state, more voices must be heard. This bill would allow the Legislature to have a process to have a say in any of those orders that affect the daily lives of the citizens of Alabama.”