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State emergency order bill moving in House

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill to shorten state of emergency orders and give the state Legislature say in extending them passed a House committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 97 from Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, would limit state of emergency orders to only 45 days and can be extended to 120 days. But any extension afterward would have to be 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 would also 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 the governor will make a good faith attempt to consult with members of the Legislature regarding the purpose of the directive.

The bill has been changed from its original form of stopping emergency orders after 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 and Gov. Kay Ivey has extended the current state of emergency order that the state is still under 26 times. The current order ends May 5 but most of the original rules in the order have been removed or reduced.

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