MONTGOMERY — A bill to shorten state of emergency orders and take away the governor’s power to restrict activities during a public health emergency passed a House committee Wednesday.
Senate Bill 97 from Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, would limit state of emergency orders to only 45 days. The emergency orders could be extended for up to 120 days if approved by a joint resolution from the Legislature.
Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka, is sponsoring the bill in the House and told committee members that constituents want more input, via their legislators, into the emergency order decisions like the ones issued by the governor during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The intent was to make people feel more involved, especially during instances of state of emergency, so they can have more participation and more confidence in what is coming out of the executive branch,” Holmes said.
The bill passed the House Health Committee on a voice vote and now heads to the House floor for a vote with only four legislative days left in the session.
The bill also would prevent the governor from issuing a rule in a state public health emergency that would “restrict, limit, or otherwise burden the conduct of private citizens or businesses,” and require the governor to make a good faith attempt to consult with members of the Legislature regarding the purpose of an emergency directive.
The bill has been changed from its original form, which would have limited emergency orders to 14 days, after Whatley said he worked with the governor’s office.
The governor may extend a state of emergency without any limit if it affects less than one-third of all counties in the state or is in response to an oil spill or a natural disaster.
Current state law says state of emergency orders can last up to 60 days. Gov. Kay Ivey has extended or amended the current state of emergency order that 26 times. The current order ends May 5, but most of the restrictions in the original rule have since been removed or reduced.