OKLAHOMA CITY — Four years after the Oklahoma Legislature made Gov. Kevin Stitt the state’s most powerful governor, several GOP lawmakers want to limit the governor’s ability to make appointments to key state boards and commissions.
Republican lawmakers want to reduce the number of appointments Stitt gets to the State Board of Education, Veterans Commission and the Turnpike Authority board — all governing bodies currently stacked with the governor’s appointees.
McBride introduced legislation to dilute Stitt’s near-monopoly on the State Board of Education by adding four legislative appointees to the seven-member panel that includes six Stitt appointees. State Superintendent Ryan Walters, who also serves on the Stitt’s Cabinet, chairs the board.
Noting the board has been stacked with non-educators from urban areas, McBride said the House and Senate should have a say in the board’s composition to add more diversity to the panel.
“I hope the governor does not take this as a personal attack,” he said. “It’s just kind of a practical way to look at things.”
The Legislature in 2011 gave governors the power to replace board members at any point during their term. Previously, board members were appointed for six-year terms and could not be replaced until their term concluded.
Stitt said he won’t sign any bills that reduce his authority over state agencies, boards and commissions.
“That would be kind of moving backwards, in my opinion,” he said.
Giving the executive branch more control over state agencies was a key theme of Stitt’s 2018 campaign. In 2019, GOP lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation to give the governor the power to hire and fire the heads of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said he still philosophically thinks the governor should have significant control over executive branch agencies. Four years ago, he touted the agency reforms that gave the governor more power.
“I still believe in having accountability there,” he said. “That there is someone to hold accountable if something goes wrong.”
Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh, who has been critical of the ACCESS Oklahoma Turnpike expansion, introduced legislation that would reduce the number of appointees Stitt has on the Turnpike Authority board.
The governor currently gets to appoint all six members. Under Sterling’s House Bill 2263, the governor would only get two appointments, with the other four appointments divided between the House speaker and the Senate president pro tem.
Preventing the governor from having the sole authority to name all the members of a board or commission could free appointees from feeling as though they have to cater to the governor’s wishes, Sterling said.
“It’s just kind of a balance of power, and implementing checks and balances from the standpoint that the House has input, the Senate has input and the governor still has input as well,” he said.
Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, said Democrats warned the majority party four years ago about giving the governor more power. Kirt said she hasn’t looked at the specific House bills that would limit the governor’s appointments to key boards and commissions.
But looking back on the 2019 state agency reforms, she said giving the governor more power limited public oversight and the flow of information from some of the biggest agencies.
“It’s really hard not to be like, ‘I told you so,’” she said.
Tulsa-area state legislators and how to contact them
Sen. Nathan Dahm
Sen. Dana Prieto
Sen. Jo Anna Dossett
Sen. John Haste
Sen. Todd Gollihare
Sen. Kevin Matthews
Sen. Joe Newhouse
Sen. Dave Rader
Sen. Cody Rogers
Rep. Meloyde Blancett
Rep. Jeff Boatman
Rep. Amanda Swope
Rep. Suzanne Schreiber
Rep. Dean Davis
Rep. Mark Tedford
Rep. Scott Fetgatter
Rep. Ross Ford
Rep. Regina Goodwin
Rep. Kyle Hilbert
Rep. Mark Lawson
Rep. T.J. Marti
Rep. Stan May
Rep. Monroe Nichols
Rep. Clay Staires
Rep. Terry O’Donnell
Rep. Melissa Provenzano
Rep. Lonnie Sims
Rep. John Kane
Rep. Mark Vancuren
Rep. John Waldron
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