OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt says he is taking on the policy of state agencies hiring third-party lobbyists to push for their interests in state government.
On Thursday, Gov. Stitt announced that he was signing four executive orders that deal with taxpayer dollars and state agencies.
The first executive order has to do with Cabinet positions, including breaking up the Secretary of Finance, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Education, and Tourism and Commerce positions into multiple positions.
The second executive order deals with transparency within state agencies regarding third-party lobbyists.
“My first day as governor, I was tasked with researching how many state agencies contract with outside lobbyists. I was shocked to find, and Oklahomans I’m sure will be shocked to find, I couldn’t find out the information. I couldn’t find out how many state agencies are hiring third-party lobbyists and what they’re paying for,” Stitt said. “So I instructed all agencies to let me know how much they’re paying lobbyists all the way back to 2015, and to make sure that before they enter into any new contracts or renew any contracts that they get permission from the secretary that they report up to.”
Stitt says that he wants to do away with state agencies hiring lobbyists all together. He says there are legislative liaisons that are necessary to educate lawmakers on certain issues, but state agencies shouldn’t be spending money on third-party lobbyists.
“If a private industry has hired a lobbyist to come in and advocate for their needs, that’s one thing. But Oklahomans do not want our state agencies spending money to then try to protect their own interests,” Stitt said.
So far, he says he has found 35 to 70 agencies that have employed third-party lobbyists in the past.
The third executive order maintains the hiring freeze for classified employees. Stitt says that many of those classified positions are no longer needed, but it is extremely difficult to move classified employees to another position. As a result, he says he wants to make sure that agencies grow unclassified positions instead of classified positions.
After the news conference, some organizations had concerns about the third executive order.
The fourth executive order instructs officials to sell the state airplane, which was primarily used for the governor’s travel.
“It just wasn’t a good use of taxpayer dollars,” Stitt said, adding that the money from that sale will go toward appropriations for the Department of Public Safety.
He says he plans to fly commercially in the future, or will rely on OHP planes or other state agency helicopters if he needs to get across the state quickly.
“When I see inefficiencies or see things that don’t make sense, I’m going to tell the Oklahoma people, and I’m going to make sure that we hold folks accountable and we deliver better services,” Stitt said.