Bills to Give Oklahoma Governor More Power Over Agencies Also Tweak Boards

Mar 7, 2019

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Besides letting the governor hire and fire directors, five bills Oklahoma Republicans say will increase government accountability also do away with restrictions or required experience for certain agencies’ board members.

Affected are the departments of transportation, corrections, mental health, juvenile affairs and the health care authority. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said it's hard finding people to serve on those boards.

"In every instance of these five, we’ve broadened the ability to get qualified people into those positions," Treat said.

Requirements for board members the bills seek to strike include living in certain areas or having a specific professional background.

"And, oftentimes, you’ll find that there’s some special-interest group that has got written into law that it has to represent an association representing X, Y or Z. So, this obliterates that," Treat said.

Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman asked Treat during a Thursday Senate Rules Committee hearing how that helps in the case of the board for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. That board must have an allopathic physician, osteopathic physician, psychologist and several other specific professionals among its members.

"What sort of professional would you envision that needs to be on this board that doesn’t meet the criteria that has been stricken?" Ikley-Freeman said.

"Anyone who has any level of expertise, as long as they’re not conflicted to try to drive contracts to their entity or entities will be properly vetted," Treat said.

The legislation also sets all five agencies' boards at nine members. The governor would appoint a majority of board members, with the House and Senate gaining appointments.