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Alabama lawmakers back in session amid coronavirus pandemic

Lawmakers are working on the states budget and other bills.

Posted: May 5, 2020 5:56 PM
Updated: May 5, 2020 6:29 PM

A bill introduced by lawmakers would limit the powers of Alabama's governor and its Department of Public Health.

Senate Bill 334 introduced by Sen. Tom Whatley would terminate a state of emergency at 14 days. Currently a state of emergency can last 60 days. In the bill a state of emergency could be extended beyond 14 days, if the legislature and governor approve it.

The bill also states, "This bill would also provide that an order or directive issued by the State Health Officer relating to the outbreak of a disease or pandemic has the full force and effect of law once it is approved by the Governor and a copy is filed with the Office of the Secretary of State."

WAAY31 reached out to Gov. Kay Ivey's office about the bill and lawmakers going back into session.

Ivey's office said: "Dr. Harris serves the state with integrity and provides the governor with the best information possible so that she can make the decisions on behalf of the people of Alabama. With any legislation, we will watch the process play out, and if needed, the governor will offer her input before a bill reaches her desk. However, when Legislative Leadership informed the governor that they were resuming Session amidst a health crisis, they assured her that they would only be addressing budgets and local bills, and that is what Governor Ivey looks forward to reviewing."

Tuesday, senators went over the state's budget and most were wearing masks while on the floor. Sen. Chris Elliott suggested Ivey didn't want lawmakers back in Montgomery because she wanted complete control over how the state spends almost $2 billion in federal coronavirus relief.

"The governor was asserting she had the authority to spend $1.8 billion without consulting the legislature. That's almost the entire sum of the general fund budget so I can see why she may not have wanted us back here but it's our constitutional duty to be here," said Senator Elliott.

Elliott told said there could be a special session in the future on how coronavirus relief funds will be spent.

WAAY31 reached out to the governor's office for a comment on Elliott's remarks. They have not emailed us back yet.

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