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Senate panel delays John Armstrong’s confirmation as surgeon general

A Senate panel postponed Surgeon General John Armstrong’s confirmation hearing Tuesday, but the committee’s chairman said he hopes to take it up before the end of the 2016 Legislative Session.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee was scheduled to discuss the confirmations of three governor-appointed department heads. However, Sen. Garrett Richter, committee chairman, said Armstrong’s confirmation was postponed because several members still had questions and “wanted to meet one-on-one to have more extended conversations” with Armstrong.

Richter said not all of the lawmakers were able to meet with Armstrong before Tuesday’s meeting and, because of that, the hearing was postponed. The plan, he said, is to call another meeting after members meet with Armstrong.

Richter said he planned to work with Senate President Andy Gardiner’s office to schedule a meeting to take up Armstrong’s confirmation. Richter said he expects that meeting will happen no later than next week.

There isn’t much time left for lawmakers to take up Armstrong’s confirmation. According to Senate rules, no committee can meet after the 50th day of the regular session except for the Senate Rules Committee. This year Day 50 is on March 1. According to LobbyTools, a Senate Ethics and Elections committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 1.

Armstrong’s confirmation has been an uphill climb this year. Last week, the Senate Health Policy Committee voted 5-4 to recommend his confirmation. He has faced increased scrutiny for several reasons, including the growing rate of HIV/AIDS and the slow implementation of the state’s medical marijuana law.

The Senate did not confirm Armstrong, who also serves as the head of the Department of Health, last year. His confirmation was held up after he refused to answer questions about Medicaid.

Richter said Armstrong is “very well qualified for the job,” and he hopes the committee will be able to move forward with the confirmation hearing in the coming days.

“I would how we are able to confirm him in the Ethics and Elections Committee and have him confirmed,” Richter said.

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