Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said he agrees with the governor’s health emergency declaration issued Thursday and that the Senate will convene Monday to take action on the order.
“This particular kind of order hasn’t ever been issued by the executive branch, but I agree it’s needed now during these extraordinary and unprecedented times. We must take this pandemic seriously as a state. Life, at every stage, is precious and we must do everything to protect it. The health emergency declaration gives the governor and his team greater authority to coordinate Oklahoma’s overall coronavirus response. Oklahoma will come through this health care crisis, and with a unified and statewide response, that comeback will happen quicker and more effectively,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
On Thursday, Governor Kevin Stitt issued an health emergency declaration in accordance with the provisions of 63 O.S. § 6101 - 6900 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s Office said:
Under 63 O.S. § 6104 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the governor is granted broader powers during a health emergency, like the COVID-19 pandemic, to waive statutory or regulatory requirements as well as the ability to coordinate a cohesive statewide response among city and county health departments.
This declaration also gives the governor the authority to allow health care professionals who have left the workforce to quickly rejoin the front lines against COVID-19 and protect first responders by helping them manage their personal protective equipment (PPE). By loosening some restrictions, first responders will be able to know if the home they are dispatched to has a resident who has tested positive for COVID-19. Patient names and other identifying information will still be restricted.
The issuance of the health emergency also triggers a special legislative session to approve or deny the governor’s actions. The special session is set for 8 a.m. Monday.
Treat said the Senate consulted with the Attorney General’s Office and legal staff since these statutes and provisions have never been invoked.
“The legal opinion is that the governor’s executive order is effective upon its issuance. The Senate is not currently in session; however, attorneys inform us the special session can be held next week. That will help us minimize the amount of time the Legislature meets so that we can adhere to social distancing guidelines,” Treat said.
Treat said the Senate was finalizing logistical plans for session, which include utilizing a minimum amount of Senate staff and rotating senators’ time on the Senate floor so that proper social distancing practices could be observed.