On this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission, a special commission created to audit state agencies that will have to restart its work after violating the Open Meeting Act.
Pryor and Ashley also review a decision from the Court of Criminal Appeals that will affect Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law, the future of the state’s opioid task force, and the newly appointed Secretary of State.
Pryor: Shawn, during the summer the pace slows down at the capitol. But that does not mean that things are not happening. The Agency Performance and Accountability Commission has restarted their work. Tell us about that.
Ashley: On Thursday we found out that the work the commission had been doing that began in 2017 after the commission was created through legislation had been done improperly. It had...Their meetings had not met the requirements of the Open Meeting Act. Therefore all the work they had done selecting the agencies that would be subject to performance audits and review beginning the process of selecting an auditor to perform those audits had been done improperly. So on Thursday they restarted that process. They did things as simply as reaffirming the elections of their officers their chairman and vice chairman and also re-approving a request for proposals for firms auditing firms to do the performance audits of about five state agencies.
Pryor: What does the commission do that the state auditor doesn't already do?
Ashley: This was a special commission created in 2017 by legislation they want to look and see that these agencies are operating in the most efficient and effective manner.
Pryor: And does the commission actually have some teeth? Do they have enforcement capabilities?
Ashley: Well, really the law passed in 2017 imposes the requirement that the agencies must abide by the recommendations that are made unless the legislature specifically exempts them from those specific recommendations.
Pryor: There's been a decision that has come from the Court of Criminal Appeals that will affect the Stand Your Ground law. Tell us about that.
Ashley: That's right. The Stand Your Ground law allows someone to defend themselves if they're being threatened. And generally what it does is provide an immunity from criminal prosecution for several years. Now the Court of Criminal Appeals has allowed individuals defendants to appeal to the court if the district court rejected their claim of a stand your ground defense. Now what the court has said is that the statute does not allow for those appeals to be made to the court. And instead what will have to happen is that the legislature will have to create an appeals process. So when an individual makes a stand your ground claim in District Court if they lose there has to be a process a method for them to appeal that decision.
Pryor: So again that shows us that legislators don't always get it just right the first time, and sometimes have to go back and adjust the law later.
Pryor: That's exactly what the Court of Criminal Appeals said. It said that the Stand Your Ground law lacks an appeals process if it is rejected at the district court level. Now what the court did add to that decision was to say that they believe district attorneys and local district judges would handle those claims appropriately. So if a district attorney felt that the stand your ground defense was appropriate they might not file the charge in a court hearing a Stand Your Ground defense might say indeed that was the case and not allow the charge to proceed.
Ashley: We all know that opioids are a huge problem in Oklahoma and across the United States. The Opioid Commission is asking to be reauthorized. Why was that necessary?
Pryor: The Commission expires on July 1. Its work comes to an end, according to the legislation that was approved in 2017. During the 2018 regular session the commission had a very good year. A number of their recommendations were embraced by the legislature and are becoming law and will become law later this year. But they think there's more work that needs to be done.
Pryor: The secretary of state's position has been open for a while but now it has been filled. What is the significance of that in this last year of Governor Fallin's term?
Ashley: On Thursday Governor Mary Fallin appointed Tulsa attorney James Williamson to fill that position. And you're right. Normally in the final months of the governor's term this office wouldn't particularly matter. But at the current time we have a number of referendum petitions and initiative petitions that are being circulated and it is up to the secretary of state to make sure that those are done properly that those signatures are turned down that the petitions were handled properly that the signatures were gathered according to the law and that there are sufficient number of signatures to meet the requirements for those issues to go on the ballot. It is an unusually important position at this late point in Governor Mary Fallin’s gubernatorial career.
Pryor: Shawn, thanks for the updates.
Ashley: You're very welcome.