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Senate OKs bill removing health background for health commissioner

Governor's office
Dr. Lance Frye speaks at the Oklahoma Capitol on May 22, 2020, at a press conference where Gov. Kevin Stitt named him state health commissioner.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s health commissioner would no longer need to be a medical doctor or have a background in health administration under legislation the state Senate passed Monday.

The Senate approved the bill on a 31-15 vote, with several Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. The measure now heads to the House for consideration.

Under current law, the state health commissioner must be a doctor or have a doctoral degree in public health or a master’s degree with five years of experience in health administration.

The bill by Republican Sen. Paul Rosino of Oklahoma City adds an exemption for candidates with a master’s degree and experience in managing a state agency or “large projects.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first appointment to be Oklahoma’s Commissioner of Health, attorney Gary Cox, stepped down after the Senate failed to support his nomination amid concerns that he lacked the qualifications to be commissioner. A bill that would have adjusted those qualifications stalled in the Legislature in 2020.