Bill That Would Limit Oklahoma City-County, Tulsa Health Departments Advances

Wednesday, February 24th 2021, 5:12 am
By: Katelyn Ogle

An Oklahoma House Bill that would limit the state’s two largest county health departments is out of the House Judiciary Committee and on its way to the Full House Floor.

Read Related: House Committee Advance Bill To Limit Tulsa, OKC Health Departments

Oklahoma City Representative Chris Kannady, who wrote the bill, said it would put every county health department on the same page, but those opposed said it is an overreach.

House Bill 2504 would take away a city appointment to the Tulsa and OKC health boards and replace that person with a state health commissioner appointee. 

The director would then be required to discuss actions with the state health commissioner and ban local rules from being more strict than state guidelines.

It would also allow the state health commissioner to force a vote to remove the local director.

Critics said this is an obvious way to overstep and centralize power, give political appointees control, and undermine residents' health and safety.

“I think a lot of us are concerned this is in response to things that Dr. Dart in Tulsa may have said that are unpopular,” House Minority Leader Emily Virgin told Kannady during the committee meeting.

“You know that's not how I work. But it's a fair question,” Kannady responded. “I think if you look at the committee substitute it’s a good balance.”

“Just as the state of Oklahoma and the state legislature doesn't like Washington dictating to them what to do, why should Oklahoma City be dictated what to do as to how we should proceed,” OCCHD Chairman Dr. Gary Roskob said.

The Tulsa and OKC health departments operate independently from the state based on the Oklahoma constitution. All other county health departments are funded and overseen by the state. 

The State Department supports the bill.