OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma voters will decide whether to increase the governor’s appointment powers under a bill that sailed through a Senate committee Monday, despite concern about consolidating too much power in the executive branch.
The Senate General Government Committee voted 6-1 for the bill that would ask voters in 2014 to decide whether the governor should appoint the state superintendent of public instruction, labor commissioner and insurance commissioner — all three offices are currently elected. The governor also would have to obtain Senate confirmation.
Bill sponsor Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said he supported additional changes that would allow the governor to also appoint the state auditor and treasurer.
“I think these are the ones we can get done this year,” Treat said. “Hopefully moving forward, we can add more to it.” The bill will next be heard by the full Senate.
Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello said there are too many state agencies, boards and commissions and urged the members to consider pushing further to reduce the size of government.
“Converting three statewide offices is only a small measure of reform that’s needed within state government,” Costello said.
But Sen. Jerry Ellis, who opposed the bill, said he questions how switching from an appointment to an election would save any money.
“There’s still a need for the job to be done,” said Ellis, D-Valliant. “The needs of the people of the state of Oklahoma still need to be met by these agencies.”
Ellis said he’s also concerned about granting more powers to the governor, regardless of political party.
“It’s a separation of powers issue,” he said. “It makes no difference who the governor is or what party they are from.”
If the bill is approved by voters, the three officeholders elected in 2014 would complete their four-year terms, and the gubernatorial appointments would begin in 2018 and coincide with the election of the governor.