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Capitol Insider: New Year, New Politics?

Oklahoma Capitol
Flickr Creative Commons

In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss preparations for the 2019 legislative session, as well as Governor-elect Kevin Stitt's reorganization of the executive cabinet and his new hires.


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Happy New Year.

Shawn Ashley: Happy New Year.

Pryor: Now that we've turned the calendar to 2019 the new legislators get down to work, starting on Tuesday with organizational day. What happens that day?

Ashley: Well this is a constitutionally required day for the legislature really to put itself together. In the House of Representatives we will see a house speaker elected. That is expected to be Charles McCall. And in the Senate we will see a new Pro Tem elected. That is expected to be Senator Greg Treat. Now those elections really matter because they are the individuals responsible for assigning members to committees, for signing offices, as well as for signing bills to committees to be considered when the Legislature returns to begin their work on those various pieces of legislation. So it's not just a formality. It's really a necessity in order for the legislature to get down to work.

Pryor: And bill filing is underway for another couple of weeks.

Ashley: That's correct. Close to 150 measures have been filed so far. Members requested 4,370 pieces of legislation. More than 2,000 most likely will be filed. It does set the stage for a lot of bills to be considered.

Pryor: Why do so many bills get filed?

Ashley: Well, a lot of members are responding to the needs of their constituents or just addressing various issues that have arisen since the legislature last met in May.

Pryor: Governor elect Kevin Stitt is making various cabinet appointments. And so far it's an interesting mix.

Ashley: Yes, Governor Stitt campaigned as a political outsider, having not held public office in the past, and indicated that he would run government much more like a business. While we have seen him appoint a number of business executives to various positions, we also see him reaching into the political sphere to bring in a number of individuals to his administration. For example, he has appointed former Representative Michael Rogers to be his Secretary of State. The deputy Secretary of State and the spokesman for the governor in many cases is Donelle Harder, who worked in Congress and in the U.S. Senate with Senator Jim Inhofe. He has also appointed a former member of Scott Pruitt's staff at the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee energy and environment in the state of Oklahoma. So we're seeing him bring in some political expertise along with business expertise as he forms his administration.

Pryor: Well and you really have to do that. He ran as an outsider, but you have to have people that know how things work.

Ashley: That's exactly right. State government is an interesting animal, an interesting business in its own right. And you do have to have a certain level of expertise just to know how to get a business card printed.

Pryor: And the governor-elect is reorganizing the executive branch structure somewhat.

Ashley: That's correct. He's made a number of appointments to his cabinet. Now by state law he can have up to 15 cabinet secretaries. But he's sort of broken away from the pattern established by Governor Mary Fallin and her predecessor Governor Brad Henry. For example, he has broken up the finance area into a number of different cabinet appointments,specifically Secretary of Budget where he is relying on a political hand, former Senator Mike Mazzei, to fill that role. He also plans to appoint a Secretary of Agency Accountability who he said will be his chief operating officer to oversee the top 10 agencies in the state. He also plans to appoint a Secretary of Digital Innovation which likely will oversee the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which is responsible for the computer backbone for the state of Oklahoma. His most recent appointment to commerce and workforce development breaks away from the idea of tying workforce development to education and commerce to tourism, and his administration indicates that they will appoint a separate Secretary of Tourism.

Pryor: The governor elect's office is working on plans for the inauguration which will occur on January 14. All statewide elected officials will be sworn in that day.

Ashley: That's correct. But for one member, Treasurer Randy McDaniel, it will be the second time he is sworn in. McDaniel took the oath of office in order to fill out the term the unexpired term of Treasurer Ken Miller, who resigned to take a job in the private sector. He will be sworn in again on January 14 with all the other statewide elected officials to begin the term the four year term for which he was elected in November.

Pryor: And we'll be covering the inauguration right here on KGOU. Thanks Shawn.

Ashley: You're very welcome.

Pryor: That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions e-mail us it is at news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter: @kgounews. You can also find us online at KGOU.org and eCapitol.net. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor. 

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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