By Rep. Mike Sanders
The governor this week signed the final budget for Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Agencies were able to retain more than 99 percent of their funding for the fiscal year. She also signed a bill that will protect many programs for the elderly, disabled and children that are administered by the Department of Human Services.
I’m glad that action is finally complete. Now we can turn our focus to reform and accountability measures that will help us ensure state agencies are spending taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible and in the manner intended to best serve the people of this state.
Several measures have been filed this session to increase accountability and oversight. These include:
- House Bills 3208 and 3209, which would allow the governor to appoint and remove directors at our largest state agencies. Right now many of these agencies are headed by directors hired by boards who are accountable to no one in particular.
- House Joint Resolution 1048 would amend the state Constitution to authorize the governor to appoint the offices of state treasurer, insurance commissioner, superintendent of public instruction and labor commissioner. This would allow for much more efficiency in state government with all leaders pulling toward the same end goal instead of in multiple directions.
- House Bill 3585 would create a Governmental Accountability Office within the Legislative Services Bureau. This is one of my favorite reforms. It would give us a team of dedicated professionals who focus on nothing but agency spending and ways to increase efficiency and find savings while scouring for waste and abuse. This vital arm of government has been missing, and has resulted in instances like the recent debacle at the state Health Department. This department would provide lawmakers substantial additional resources and staff to perform Constitutional duty of oversight of taxpayer dollars.
- House Bill 3597 would prohibit agency directors from serving in the governor’s cabinet. I think you can see why this is significant. You don’t want an agency head – like the director of the Health Department, for instance – who reports only to himself as the secretary of health and human services. This can lead to fraud and abuse.
- House Bills 3583 and 3584 would strengthen statutory qualifications for the director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and members of the Oklahoma Department of Health Board of Directors.
- Numerous measures have been filed to limit pay for executive branch agency directors and officers and cabinet secretaries.
On a separate note, my House Bill 3329 passed out of committee this week and should be heard soon by the full House. This bill will allow firefighters retired from municipal fire departments to work for rural volunteer departments without having to be added to the state’s pension plan. This is an addition to my House Bill 2005, which became law in 2015. That eliminated the 45-year-old age limit for new firefighters by giving them the ability to join a department without the requirement of being added to the state’s pension plan. Many of these volunteers already have their own businesses, or they work in the oil field or in other lucrative careers. They were happy to volunteer without needing to receive a state pension. Since HB2005 was signed into law, we have added over 200 volunteer firefighters across the state. This is a win-win for Oklahoma.
One final suggestion: If you wish to contact me to invite me to events or meetings in your communities, please call my office at (405) 557-7407, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t always have time to track everything posted on social media, but I do check my phone and email many times a day.
As always, I’ll keep you updated as the legislative session continues.