In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley recap key parts of Governor Kevin Stitt's inaugural address.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, on Monday new governor Kevin Stitt and other statewide elected officials were sworn into office. If you thought the lineup looked different you'd be right. Of the nine, only two were incumbents who had been previously elected. That's a dramatic shift.
Shawn Ashley: It's a very big shift from what we've seen the last several years. The two survivors, remaining individuals, of course, were Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who was elected four years ago to her first term. She now enters her second and last term as superintendent of state schools. And then corporation commissioner Bob Anthony.
Pryor: Central to the Stitt approach is government accountability. In his inaugural address he indicated the Oklahoma turnaround will start with government accountability.
Stitt’s Inaugural Speech: As I begin serving today is your next governor, let me tell you where Oklahoma's turnaround starts for me. Accountability. It starts today by demanding accountability in our state government. In this administration, we're going to get to the bottom of every tax dollar spent.
Ashley: He had some very harsh things to say about state agencies. In particular, he said they were often operating in a rogue manner, ignoring executive orders of his office, the governor's office, and even laws passed by the legislature.
Pryor: Governor Stitt emphasized his belief that Oklahoma can and should be a top 10 state in positive ways, and it seems at the top of his list for how to do that is giving the executive branch more power.
Stitt: That's right. We heard him talk about this on the campaign trail, and he hinted at it there in his inaugural address, although he did not go as far as he had on the campaign trail. What he wants to see is that the governor have the authority to appoint agency board and commissions executive directors, giving the governor the ability to hire and fire those individuals. It seems that, on one hand, the legislature may be willing to go along with that idea. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat on Wednesday filed five bills that would give him that authority. Specifically it would give the governor the authority to appoint the director of the Health Care Authority, the Department of Corrections, the Office of Juvenile Affairs, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the Department of Transportation. But keep in mind this is not the first time this has been attempted. We've seen in previous years similar pieces of legislation that never made it to the floor for a final vote. In a couple of instances they have approved such ideas on an individual basis. For example, Governor Stitt now has the authority to appoint the commissioner of health. That was approved in 2018. In 2017 the Legislature gave the governor the authority to appoint the director of the Department of Tourism and Recreation. And already the governor has the authority to appoint the director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and Commerce. And voters gave the governor the authority to appoint the director of the Department of Human Services. But those are just a few of, as he pointed out, more than a hundred agency boards and commissions in the state.
Pryor: In his speech Governor Stitt emphasized his focus will also be on economic growth and bringing businesses and jobs to the state.
Stitt’s Inaugural Speech: It is Stitt administration, Oklahoma is open for business. We will help our local businesses expand. We will recruit. We will train and supply the modern day workforce. And we will bring Oklahoma to the world, and we're going to bring the world to Oklahoma.
Ashley: He borrowed a phrase sort of coincidentally that Governor Mary Fallin had used many many times, and that is that the state of Oklahoma is open for business. This is an idea he is trying to promote again, as well as Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, that Oklahoma is willing to work with businesses in order to bring them here and to stress the fact that Oklahoma has already taken a number of steps, such as workers compensation reform and tort reform, that make the state attractive to businesses.
Pryor: We'll know a lot more when the governor presents his first executive budget and State of the State address on February 4th.
Ashley: That's correct.
Pryor: That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, e-mail us news at kgou.org or contact us on Twitter at @kgounews. You Can also find us online at kgou.org and eCapitol.net. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.