February 26, 2015 was the deadline for reporting Senate bills from committee in the Senate but that didn’t stop Sen. Nathan Dahm from introducing Senate Bill 829, a new piece of legislation, at the last minute. According to the Senate Rules, you’ll see that on page 14 in section 6-23 there is a provision to allow committees to “author” measures:
RULE 6-23. COMMITTEE AUTHORSHIP OF BILLS
A member who introduces legislation after the deadlines established in Rule 6-22 may file the legislation and upon assignment by the Majority Floor Leader to committee may ask the committee Chair to allow for the measure to be heard as a measure authored by the committee. Upon majority vote of the committee, the authorship of the measure shall be transferred to the committee from the individual Senator and the deadlines established in Rule 6-22 shall not be applicable. In the event a measure is dually assigned, each committee Chair and committee must agree to assume authorship for the deadlines to not apply.
So what committee was SB 829 assigned to? The Senate General Government Committee, chaired by none other than Senator Dahm himself. In a perfect world the author has to convince not only the chair of a committee but the majority of the committee as well. But this isn’t a perfect world and he simply had to convince himself to allow it. That must have been tough.
And what would this piece of legislation do? Further dilutes the powers of the legislative branch – the branch closest to the people as provided in our Constitution – and gives the Governor “sweeping new powers.” SB 829 fires the following people, effective January 1, 2016, and would give authority directly to the Governor in appointing new people in their place:
- The Executive Director appointed by the Oklahoma State Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners;
- The Executive Director appointed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry;
- The Executive Director appointed by the State Board of Pharmacy;
- The Executive Director appointed by the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision;
- The Executive Director appointed by the State Board of Osteopathic Examiners;
- The Executive Director appointed by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners;
- The Chief Operating Officer appointed by the Board of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority;
- The Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services appointed by the Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services;
- The Commissioner of Health appointed by the State Board of Health; and
- The Executive Director appointed by the Office of Juvenile Affairs.
When asked about this piece of legislation Sen. Dahm said he “selected the ten agencies because the executive director of each one has access to a state prescription drug database.” Although Governor Fallin supposedly did not request this bill, she is generally supports bills that giver her more power. We’re all shocked.
Shouldn’t we all fear that these appointments would become less about competency and more about political aspirations and reciprocity? Yes we should. What would stop Governor Fallin from appointing her campaign supporters to these positions?
Do you think Sen. Dahm would be proposing this legislation if the Governor were a Democrat, say Brad Henry or Joe Dorman? Unequivocally no.
As a reminder, in Fallin’s first term she pushed for changes to giver her more power over certain agencies; one of those was the State Board of Education and look where that got us.
Sen. Dahm said that he “likely” won’t seek to bring this issue to the Senate floor this year but the freshman legislator seems unable to follow the rules so why should we believe him?
What can you do?
Call or write your Senator and tell him/her to VOTE NO on SB 829 should it come to the Senate floor. Don’t know who your Senator is or how to contact them? Find out here: http://www.oksenate.gov/FindMyLegislature.aspx