State Legislature Fast-Tracks Bills Giving Governor More Power
OKLAHOMA CITY - Just one day after Governor Kevin Stitt announced a plan to give himself more power, the legislature fast-tracked five bills to do just that.
The bills give the governor and future governors the ability to hire and fire the heads of the five costliest agencies in the state.
Republicans were on board, but Democrats say it gives the governor too much power.
“Members, we have the opportunity to fundamentally change how we provide services to our constituents,” said Representative John Pfeiffer (R) Guthrie.
The bills would give the governor five appointments to agency boards, while the Senate and House would each have two.
“What in this process would ensure that we would have professional leadership and experienced leadership?” Senator Julia Kirt (D) Oklahoma City asked.
Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore responded, “If we get it wrong, we now have a backstop that we currently don’t enjoy that would allow for a two-thirds vote for both chambers to remove this individual.”
That means with enough votes, the legislature can oust board members chosen by the governor.
The agencies impacted would be ODOT, the Health Care Authority, the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the DOC, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Backers say right now, boards have too much control and answer to no one.
“We have a board that does not answer to the legislature. The people of Oklahoma wanted that in our founding and I still think want that today. They don’t trust us. And I don’t blame the sometimes,” said Senator J.J. Dossett (D) Owasso.
Opponents say the lightning speed at which the bills are moving doesn’t give lawmakers the time to weigh the pros and cons.
“With a change of this magnitude for the state of Oklahoma to only have enough time to review it and give input and be able to work with my colleagues, does not meet my expectations for how changes in state government should happen,” said Senator Mary Boren (D) Norman.
Representative Monroe Nichols (D) Tulsa said, “We have plenty of other problems in the state to be solving. And we hear over and over again that this just actually happens not to be one of them. It’s just something that the governor wants, and I understand the governor wanting more power.”
Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore said, “The status quo is unacceptable. We must change the way we do things.”
The bills could be on the governor’s desk next week.