Oklahoma democrats seek to roll back governor’s staffing power over state agencies, starting with the Health Care Authority

Oklahoma Politics

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State democrats say they’re fighting back against the governor after he removed the only two physicians from the state Health Care Authority Board earlier this month.

Representative Monroe Nichols announced Monday that he’s filing a bill that would restore legislative authority over that board.

“It has become unmistakably clear that our governor is more focused on his political future,” he said during a Tuesday press briefing. “My Republican colleagues gave the governor this new power — he abused it.”

That power was granted to Gov. Stitt in 2019, when the legislature passed a package of bills that allowed the governor to make hiring and firing decisions for the heads of five state agencies.

Democrats, including Rep. Forrest Bennett, say this gives him too much power.

“It is one thing to have that responsibility and oversight spread over several of us,” Bennett said. “It’s another thing entirely to let one person who’s very clearly focused on something else call the shots.”

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin says she hopes they can continue to address this issue for the other four state agencies throughout the coming legislative session.

“We do plan on making this an issue in the upcoming session,” she said.

But republican lawmakers, like Sen. Lonnie Paxton, says it’s necessary for the governor to be able to hold these state agencies accountable.

“I just don’t see this as an improvement,” Paxton said. “I see this actually taking us back to the days where there’s basically no accountability.”

He adds that he would have voted for the 2019 bills regardless of whether the governor was a Republican or Democrat.

The governor’s office has since released a statement saying Democrats’ attempts to undo the governor’s agency reforms are “an out-of-touch political stunt designed to score points with special interest groups and unelected bureaucrats.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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