Saturday, State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) and State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) both took to social media to voice their frustrations with the blanket order closing certain businesses to limit the spread of the COVID-19/coronavirus threat.
Whatley took to the airwaves later that day to elaborate on his concerns. During an appearance on Huntsville radio WVNN’s “Will Hampson Weekends,” Whatley explained how economic consequences were ignored and done so at the expense of individuals’ civil liberties with the order issued at the behest of State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.
“It’s not just Auburn and Lee County, Tallapoosa and Russell County – it’s all across the state,” Whatley said. “You’ve got rural Alabama that doesn’t have some of the things, advantages other places do – options I should say, to obtain certain items they need in everyday life. And now, the state has come in with a one-size-fits-all order signed by the state health officer, who is not an elected official but an appointed official by a board of doctors.”
“He is issuing orders for the state that are carrying the rule of law,” Whatley continued. “Yet, he is an unelected individual. And he is a good fellow, and he is a good guy. He’s doing everything he can to keep the state safe. But as you stated earlier, the whole focus has been on making sure the state is safe and minimizing the consequences. And that’s great. And we need to do that. But he admitted to me yesterday he had only been focused on the medical side of the issue. And when you’re doing something outside of the medical side of the issue, you need to bring everybody to the table. And that’s a concern with the economics as well. You’re going to curtail people’s civil liberties.”
The Lee County lawmaker also expressed his concern with how the order from the state favors big business over local business by giving a competitive advantage.
“That may not have been their objective to start with,” Whatley said. “But it sure is the result of their order. And if this was ever an order that was given down to benefit big business over the guy that goes to church with you, that lives down the street, that has a mortgage at the local bank – I don’t know what is.”
Whatley revealed State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has also reached out to Ivey with similar concerns regarding the mandate from the state.
“I can’t speak for him, but I know Senator Del Marsh has written a letter to the governor that I had a look at,” Whatley said. “It was a very well thought out letter. It said those who are in danger, those who have the pre-disposition – make sure you can get yourself in a place where you can be safe and don’t put yourself at risk. And then the rest of us need to continue on with business, need to continue on to make sure that we can go to schools, go to shops and we can continue the commerce that is the business of Alabama.”
Host Will Hampson asked if there was the possibility the Alabama legislature could take a look at the authority given to the state health officer.
“When all of this is said and done, I hope we make some changes to make things better and easier on small business,” he said. “I have spoken to several of my colleagues, and I do think that there is a prevailing thought among those people that I serve with that when we go back in to session– maybe not this year because it will be a truncated year but next year for sure – that we look at legislation addressing some of the issues that have come up during this crisis – maybe the emergency powers, the state health officer being, in essence, a dictator for the state because he has no check and balance on him.”
“One thing that I’d like to see is that person appointed by the governor and be part of the governor’s cabinet,” he added. “So if the governor wants to do a shutdown, he or she has to put their name on the order, not just the state health officer. And I think you’ll see that taken into account. So, I hope we see a change that benefits the small businessman.”