Oklahoma House OKs bill to strip power from local officials

Oklahoma House OKs bill to strip power from local officials

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House narrowly approved a bill on Thursday to strip some power during health emergencies from mayors and other local officials.

The bill would make several changes to the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act, conferring broad authority on the governor and others during health emergencies if the Legislature agrees.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Among the changes the bill makes is to strip local officials of the authority to separate ill or exposed people, issue vaccinations and take other steps to prevent, manage and contain health threats. Instead, it would give the governor the power to delegate local officials certain authorities.

The bill also would require the governor to notify the Legislature of specific powers he is seeking and for the governor or a designee to meet at least twice weekly with members of the House and Senate while the emergency is in effect.

Conflicts have arisen in Oklahoma during the coronavirus outbreak over local stay-at-home orders stricter than state guidelines. The state’s attorney general and a U.S. attorney both warned Norman Mayor Breea Clark last week to lift an order in Oklahoma’s third-largest city that prevented large gatherings inside places of worship after the governor had said churches could reopen.