BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A new bill in the Alabama State Legislature would change how the state’s health officer would be chosen.
Instead of being selected by the Board of Public Health, the governor would select the state’s next lead health official.
Sen. Jim McClendon put the bill together and already has 19 co-sponsors for the bill. McClendon says the bill is about holding health officers more accountable.
“It’s time to make changes, and changes have to be made at the top of the pecking order,” McClendon said.
But some Alabamian politicians see the bill as a dangerous political move.
“I think that positions like the State Health Department and others should not be in political positions,” Rep. Merika Coleman said.
McClendon says the bill passed the Senate Health Committee 8-3 on Wednesday.
“We’re the only state in the nation where we allow a private organization total control over two state agencies,” McClendon said.
He says the bill essentially creates a new cabinet member for the state.
“That Secretary of Health will be selected by the governor and submitted to the Senate for approval,” McClendon said.
Rep. Coleman says the bill removes health experts opinions in future health crisis’.
“The experts, the scientists, the doctors need to be able to make those split second decisions for the benefit for the rest of us,” Coleman said.
Coleman says she has lost five family members from COVID-19 and doesn’t want anyone else to feel that pain.
“Some of them may make decisions based on their political ideology versus science,” Coleman said.
She says health departments and other health experts should make decisions best for the public and not let politics stand in the way.
“The Alabama Department of Public Health is a creation of the Alabama legislature. It don’t get any more political than that,” McClendon said.
McClendon says he has worked on this bill since January of 2020 and that it has nothing to do with how State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris has done his job during the pandemic.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor.