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Municipal Government Advocate Predicts Upcoming Legislative Battles Over State Versus Local Control

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Oklahoma House of Representatives
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The executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League, which advocates at the Capitol on behalf of municipal governments and their interests, said Friday the state legislature's next session could be contentious over issues of whether emergency powers should rest with local versus state government.

"My fear is that we are going to be in a defensive stance on our ability to function during an emergency," OML's Mike Fina told a virtual meeting of the Coalition of Tulsa Area Governments. "No doubt there are going to be several bills challenging that."

Fina said the pandemic has illustrated local governments' effectiveness in responding to emergent threats.

"What we've learned from COVID is it was the municipalities and the counties that stepped up and did the things that needed to be done in this state to protect our citizens, and if they start messing with our emergency authority abilities, it's going to be devastating if this were to ever happen again," Fina said.

"So, we just need to be prepared to fight that," he said.

In August, Fina brought concerns from local governments to Gov. Kevin Stitt when it was revealed Stitt was not sharing weekly White House coronavirus task force reports with municipalities and counties, despite the reports containing specific policy recommendations for specific Oklahoma localities.

Fina said on Friday he hoped Stitt would be faithful to his stated belief in local control in considering any legislation that comes to his desk.

"He was very vocal that local control was important for COVID. All of us heard that. I'm hoping that he'll recognize that if any bills do reach his desk, but at some point we'll all need to have that conversation with him," Fina said. 

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