Sen. Marty Quinn

This week, we spent extended days hearing bills on the Senate floor, as the March 14 deadline for third reading is rapidly approaching. As you’re aware, government accountability and transparency are two major legislative goals this year. This week, we took a big step towards bringing those goals to fruition by advancing five government accountability bills. These two Senate bills and three House bills would give the governor the authority to hire and fire agency leaders with Senate confirmation, as well as allow state agencies to maintain governing boards, with board members serving at will. Additionally, the governor would appoint a majority of the board members, with the House and Senate gaining appointment seats on the boards. The proposal would allow the House and Senate to remove agency leaders with a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

Two of the bills in the deal, Senate Bills 456 and 457, were approved by the full Senate earlier this week and have moved on to the House for consideration. This set of bills would give the governor the ability to make hiring and firing decisions regarding the head of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (Senate Bill 456) and the director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (SB 457) with Senate confirmation.

The other three bills, House Bills 2479, 2483, and 2480 were approved in the Senate Rules Committee this past Thursday and will be heard by the full Senate as early as next Wednesday. These would give the same authority to the governor within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (House Bill 2480), the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (HB 2479) and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (HB 2483).

Giving the governor expanded authority in regards to the agency heads is a prudent move, as the antiquated system in place right now only protects the status quo. The new legislation will allow agency heads to be held more accountable, unlike the current system where agency leaders don’t answer to anyone except a board comprised of people who aren’t elected. Shifting the expanded ability to the governor to hire and fire as deemed necessary allows him or her the ability to bring their vision of change and growth to the state. This fosters better accountability in state government.

The renewed push for greater government accountability measures is gaining momentum and the new legislation represents a huge step in reshaping state government for the better.

If you have any questions about state government or concerns about legislation, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing to me at Senator Marty Quinn, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 419, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I can also be reached via email at quinn@oksenate.gov.