OKLAHOMA CITY - Five bills restructuring state boards has been signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt.
The plan, which was proposed through a series of five bills, would also give the governor more power to hire and fire agency directors. It applies to five state agencies:
- Department of Corrections (HB2480)
- Healthcare Authority (SB456)
- Department of Transportation (SB457)
- Office of Juvenile Affairs (HB2479)
- Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (HB2483)
"The main thing this does is make sure we’re all on the same team. And, now — they (directors) are reporting up to the cabinet. They’re reporting up to the Executive Branch - so we know, when we want to deliver results and deliver change, that we’re all on the same team," Stitt said.
Supporters of the bill said it would put a system of checks and balance in place. The five bills include the following provisions:
- The governor would have the authority to hire and fire the agency leader.
- Senate would have confirmation authority of the agency leader.
- State agencies would maintain governing boards, but board members will serve at will and the legislation will include a conflict of interest provision.
- The governor would appoint a majority of the board members, and the House and Senate would gain appointment seats on the boards.
- The House and Senate would be able to remove agency leaders by achieving a two-third vote in both Chambers.
However, opponents, including Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City said there are too many unknowns.
"When we ask questions about other states and how it’s working there — those questions weren’t really welcome," Kirt said. "We don’t know what’s going to happen behind closed doors, what the governor’s going to share. Where is the public going to see the decisions being made, or is it going to be behind closed doors?"
In response, Stitt said board meetings will still exist and be open to the public.
"I’m trying to bring both sides together. We’re not playing partisan politics at all," he said.
Each bill includes an emergency clause, meaning they go into effect immediately.