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By Morgan Bryce

Lee County native and District 27 State Rep. Tom Whatley filed Senate Bill 334 last week, a piece of legislation designed “to improve the system of checks and balances” in determining, extending and lifting states of emergency.

This bill is being introduced as Alabama is in the midst of Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Safer-at-Home” order that went into effect on April 30 and is set to expire on May 15 at 5 p.m. While portions of the state’s economy were allowed to reopen under this order, thousands of Alabamians remain unemployed as they wait for Ivey to lift restrictions on their businesses or places of employment so they can get back to work.

According to Alabama Code Title 31, a state of emergency declared by either the governor or the Alabama Legislature “shall terminate 60 days after the date on which it was proclaimed unless the governor extends the emergency by proclamation or the Legislature extends the emergency by a joint resolution.”

Whatley explained that the checks and balances in his bill can be found in its requirement that the sitting governor would have to sign a health order issued by the state health officer during an epidemic or pandemic instead of the current law which only requires a signature from the state health officer.

“This bill simply improves the system of checks and balances in the state when a state of emergency has been declared. 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,” Whatley said.

“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,” Whatley added. “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.”

Sens. Will Barfoot (Montgomery) and Jim McClendon (Mobile) are the bill’s co-sponsors.

Follow the Observer for more information and updates on this story as it develops.