An Oklahoma Senate Committee took the first step in limiting the governor's ability to fire state education board members Tuesday.
In December, Governor Kevin Stitt removed State Board of Education Member Kurt Bollenbach. When asked for an explanation on the removal, the governor’s office noted members serve at the pleasure of the governor. Tuesday a committee took a step to change that.
“When someone gets appointed by the governor and approved by this body, I think there needs to be cause for them to be removed before their term is up,” Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, said.
Currently, state law says, "appointed members shall serve at the pleasure of the governor." Dossett wants to change that to "the governor may remove appointed members for cause."
The Senate Education Committee voted 10-2, passing the bill but also striking the title, signaling there is more work to be done on the bill.
“We still have oversight and we still have authority and we still do yes vet these candidates,” said Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. “Since I've been here, we've made substantial changes on the (executive nominating) process to where we are much more involved.”
Dahm and Committee Chairman Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, voted against the bill.
“I think this body put a lot of work into approving these. The robust vetting that we've gone through over the last few years for sure and I think there needs to be cause just like there is for the statewide virtual charter school board,” Dossett said.
Under the proposal, just causes would include a felony or malfeasance conviction, mental incompetence, or failing to attend three meetings in a row.
Claremore Republican Sen. Marty Quinn signaled he may want even more oversight into the governor's firings.
“Just trying to make sure we avoid a situation where one single individual has the ability to get rid of a board member,” Quinn said. “(Could) the entire group or at least a portion of the entire group be consulted, reviewed before action is taken by one single individual?”
The governor's office declined to comment on the bill.