Bill: joint ticket, agency control

State Representative Mark Lepak, R-Claremore, has filed four measures for the upcoming legislative session designed to give more responsibility to the governor over the executive branch, reducing the number of statewide elected officials and creating a “joint ticket” for the governor and lieutenant governor on the ballot.

House Bills 3208 and 3209 would consolidate authority in the governor to appoint and remove directors at most of the largest state agencies. Those bills would leave existing boards and commissions in advisory capacities.

“I’ve long believed our executive branch can’t be very productive the way it is organized, which is evident in the problems that were recently disclosed in a couple of our state agencies,” said Lepak,. “The ‘weak governor’ model in Oklahoma constrains leadership and almost eliminates the ability to deliver satisfactory results within the state’s bureaucracy. We need a ‘strong governor’ model, where the governor is a true CEO and can provide leadership, oversight and accountability so that we can ultimately get control of, and drive better results in, agencies.”

Lepak said that model will strengthen the Legislature as well by ensuring a single elected individual to hold accountable for agency activity.

“The way we are structured today, our part-time Legislature has a hard time holding anyone accountable – even with its ‘power of the purse,’ said Lepak. “Agency heads are generally answerable only to boards whose members, once appointed, aren’t answerable to anyone and have terms extending across gubernatorial terms. To the surprise of almost every citizen I’ve ever talked to, the governor has very little authority to run all those agencies, ultimately measured by having the ability to hire and fire agency heads. These bills change that paradigm for the largest state agencies.”

House Joint Resolution 1047 would allow citizens to amend the Constitution to create a joint ticket system where a gubernatorial candidate selects his or her running mate for lieutenant governor. Currently, voters select the governor and lieutenant governor separately. Twenty-five states currently use a joint ticket structure.

House Joint Resolution 1048 would allow citizens to amend the Constitution to authorize the governor to appoint individuals to the offices of State Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction and Labor Commissioner. Those offices are currently filled by a vote of the people. Those changes would apply to the election cycle beginning in 2022.

Lepak said the goal of the legislation is to give the governor the authority to be a true executive.  “The citizens of Oklahoma just want government that works without waste,” said Lepak. “We need one point of accountability in the executive branch – a true governor with real authority. And the governor, regardless of party affiliation, needs to have his or her team of executives in place who are all on the same page, reflecting the policies upon which he or she was elected.”