|Opinion:||Ritter v. State, 2022 OK 73|
|Subject matter:||Public Law|
|Date Decided:||September 20, 2022|
|Trial Court:||District Court of Oklahoma County; Judge Mai|
|Route to this Court:||Appeal of trial court’s grant of a temporary injunction; Retained on motions of the parties|
|Facts:||Senate Bill 658 creates two new sections, 70 O.S. §§1210-189 and 190. Section 1210-189 relates to vaccination restrictions and mask mandates. Section 1210-190 provides that a board of education of a public school district or technology center may only implement a mask mandate or mandate any other medical device during times when the jurisdiction where the school or center is located is under a current state of emergency declared by the Governor. |
Plaintiffs filed suit on August 12, 2021, arguing that the new sections are unenforceable on several constitutional grounds (equal protection, due process, special laws regulating school districts, single subject rule). On September 8, 2021, the trial court trnated, in part, Plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary injunction. The State appealed and Plaintiffs counter-appealed.
|Standard of Review:||The standard of review for the issuance of a temporary injunction is whether the trial court abused its discretion or entered a decision against the evidence.|
|Analysis:||The problem with this legislation is that local control of schools is usurped or impeded by requiring the Governor to declare or not declare a state of emergency. Fearing excessive power in the hands of one individual, the framers of the Oklahoma Constitution intentionally created a weak chief executive. The new statues remove the school board’s authority to act independently and exercise the authority granted to the school board and it transfers that authority to the Governor – who has neither constitutional nor statutory authority over the operation of schools. This is an impermissible delegation of authority. |
Because the Court decides the case on the matter of improper delegation of authority, it does not address the other constitutional arguments of unconstitutional violation of equal protection and due process, the enactment of special laws regulating the affairs of school districts, violation of the single subject rule, or a child’s right to a free education in a safe environment.
The offending delegation of authority to the Governor is stricken, but the remainder of the statutes are upheld. This result removes the constitutional infirmity and enhances the school board’s authority to act independently and exercise authority over local public health and welfare matters.
|Outcome:||Order of district court vacated.|
|Vote:||7-2. Concur: Darby, C.J., Kauger (author), Winchester, Edmonson, Gurich, Rowe, Kuehn, JJ. Concur in part, Dissent in part: Fischer, S.J. (by separate writing) and Combs, J. V.C.J. Kane recused.|
|Other:||The separate writing concurring in part and dissenting agrees that Section 1210-90 contains an impermissible delegation of power to the Governor. The separate writing goes on to argue that Section 1210-189 is also unconstitutional as a prohibited special law regulating public schools prohibited by Article 5, § 46 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Further, the separate writing points out that, Section 1210-89 prohibits a governing body of any public school from doing something it never had the authority to do in the first place- add to the list of immunizations required to attend public school under Title 70 O.S. § 1210-191(C), a power reserved to the State Commissioner of Health.|