Lawyering up: New Attorney General Gentner Drummond revealed his top staffers, and there aren’t any holdovers from predecessor John O’Connor.
Drummond’s inner circle includes former state lawmaker Rob Johnson as general counsel, longtime Oklahoma County prosecutor Jimmy Harmon as chief of the Criminal Division, former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Chief Counsel Stacy Morey as chief of the Civil Division and interim first assistant attorney general, Drummond Law President Garry Gaskins as solicitor general, and former lawmaker and longtime political consultant Trebor Worthen as chief of staff.
Harmon and Morey have previously worked in the Attorney General’s Office.
Correction: This brief originally misstated Rob Johnson’s new position in the AG’s Office. The info has been corrected.
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No ESG: New Treasurer Todd Russ said he will enforce recent state laws banning the investment of the taxpayers’ money in banks and funds that “discriminate” against oil and gas companies.
“I am deeply committed to evaluating the systems used to manage our money as a state,” Russ said in a press release. “The taxpayers deserve to know that their money is being invested in areas that comply with our laws and align with our standards and values.”
Several of the world’s largest financial institutions have incorporated environmental, social and governance policies, known as ESG, into their lending and investment strategies. Oil and gas companies say this has made raising capital more difficult.
“The dangers of ESG to our state’s financial well-being is a top issue for me,” Russ said. “I am concerned that companies that utilize these non-financial factors to make key financial decisions are missing the mark. We will not do business with those who are punishing Oklahomans based on these unattainable environmental or social values.”
The down-side to excluding ESG lenders and investment firms is that they often offer more favorable interest rates and returns.
Tax vote: A 1-cent public safety sales tax will be on Claremore’s April 4 municipal general election ballot.
If approved, the measure would bring Claremore’s total city sales tax to 4%. Total sales tax, including state and county, would be 10% within the Claremore city limits.
“This one penny measure will provide critical and protected funding to meet our growing public safety needs,” City Manager John Feary said in a press release. “Additionally, it gives us more flexibility in our general fund to focus on improving our electrical infrastructure along with needed streets, water and sewer updates.”
Besides the sales tax proposition, all five city councilors and the mayor will be on the April ballot.
Gen rev: Deposits to the state’s primary operating fund remained strong in December but not as strong as in recent months, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said.
General revenue for the month was $767.6 million, which is 11.4% above the estimate but slightly below December 2021 collections.
For the first six months of fiscal year 2023, the General Revenue Fund is 21.8% above the estimate and 13.1% above prior year collections for the same period.
Popularity contest: Gov. Kevin Stitt easily won reelection in November, but according to Morning Consult‘s latest rankings he had the fifth-worst approval rating in the country at the end of 2022.
Three of the four governors below him have since left office.
According to Morning Consult’s polling, 48% of Oklahomans approved of Stitt’s job performance and 44% disapproved, which still left him at +4. Only two governors, term-limited Kate Brown of Oregon at -24 and Doug Ducey of Arizona at -1, were in negative territory.
Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont was the most popular, with an 81-14 split that put him at +67.
State government: State Health Commissioner Keith Reed told lawmakers the State Health Department is resuming management of the state’s public health lab after a rocky two years under a private nonprofit.
“The plan for that is that at the end of this month that transition will occur,” Reed said, according to the news service Quorum Call.
Quroum Call also said new Tourism Director Shelley Zumwalt delivered a blunt report to another legislative panel.
“I have been in state government for 11 years, and I have never seen anything like this,” Zumwalt told them.
She said the agency’s compartmentalized structure meant no one has oversight of all activities. After three months on the job, Zumwalt said, she is still discovering organizational quirks and blind spots.
Zumwalt also said morale is low from years of internal strife and public scandals.
“Arriving at the agency, I was aware of the history and challenges because I’ve been with state government for over a decade,” she said. “But that knowledge didn’t really prepare me for the financial issues that I encountered, as well as an undercurrent of fear and a toxic culture that permeated many areas of the agency, and I say that with my staff here.”
State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said he’ll need an $850,000 supplemental appropriation for the March 7 election featuring State Question 820, a petition to legalize recreational marijuana use.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is looking into contracting for aerial firefighting services instead of depending on the Air National Guard.
Campaigns and elections: Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. launched his reelection campaign with a series of events last week.
U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin endorsed Maressa Treat for Oklahoma County clerk. Treat is the wife of state Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and a former staffer of U.S. Sen. James Lankford.
Meetings and events: Creek County Democrats will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at La Margarita, 1215 New Sapulpa Road, Sapulpa.
— Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World
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