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Capitol Insider: Attorney General Selection Near


Normally, summer is a slow time at the state Capitol, but there was a lot of activity this week, including movement toward the appointment of a new State Attorney General. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss in the latest Capitol Insider.


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, Governor Stittt has interviewed around a dozen candidates for the open state attorney general position. What is he looking for?

Shawn Ashley: Stitt said June twenty-first that since this is the chief law enforcement person in the state, he's looking for someone with a really strong ethical compass and really great management skills. He said the pick also should be someone who lines up with Oklahoma's values and can manage the agency and defend the state, perhaps against federal overreach and someone that is going to be a great representative of the state of Oklahoma.

Dick Pryor: Did he define what those Oklahoma values are?

Shawn Ashley: No, he was not specific in addressing what those values are. But what we have seen in the past is that Governor Stitt and former Attorney General Mike Hunter did not always agree. So, this will be an opportunity for the governor to bring someone into that office who shares his values.

Dick Pryor: When might we expect an announcement?

Shawn Ashley: You know, the governor did not give a definite timeline, but he did say time is of the essence.

Dick Pryor: How long would the appointed AG serve?

Shawn Ashley: You know, the simple answer is at least until January, 2023 – after 2022’s general election. And that's what makes the governor's decision a little more complicated and interesting. Whoever he appoints, if they want to keep the job and decide to seek reelection, they would go into the election with the benefit of incumbency and essentially the endorsement of the governor, giving them an advantage over any challengers.

Dick Pryor: The State Regents for Higher Education have approved tuition and fee increase beginning this fall. What's the rationale for making the increase now?

Shawn Ashley: Really, two key factors seem to play into the request for those increases: the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the five-point-five percent increase in state appropriations that the State Regents for Higher Education received for the upcoming fiscal year. You know, the pandemic increased costs for lots of schools and the additional appropriations helped offset some of those expenses. The increase averages one-point-three percent for undergraduate students. Thirteen of the state's colleges and universities did not request an increase of any kind, but twelve did, including OU and Oklahoma State University.

Dick Pryor: The Senate Appropriations Committee is meeting on Tuesday. It's the end of June. What are they going to be talking about?

Shawn Ashley: Well, obviously, they won't be talking about bills or any other legislation. Instead, they will hear presentations related to the closure of the William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Gibson. The Department of Corrections recently announced that they plan to close that facility by the end of the year. Now, that announcement came after the legislative session had adjourned. So really, this is the first time lawmakers have had an opportunity to call officials from the Department of Corrections, as well as those in the community surrounding the facility, to appear before them and discuss why it's necessary and the impact it will have.

Dick Pryor: We know the legislature is coming back for a special session this fall to address congressional redistricting. Why is the special session needed?

Shawn Ashley: Well, the U.S. Census Bureau still has not released the actual numbers from the 2020 census, which the legislature needs to redraw Oklahoma's five congressional districts. Those numbers are expected in September, and the legislature is then expected to meet in October to do that redistricting.

Dick Pryor: When legislators return for the special session, where will they meet?

Shawn Ashley: That is an interesting question because renovations are currently taking place in both the House and Senate chambers. They're closed to the public and legislators, as well. The House will meet in a large conference room that's located on the first floor in what was previously the Betty Price Art Gallery. The Senate will meet in Room 535, the Senate Assembly room, its largest conference room.

Dick Pryor: A lot of people visiting the Capitol have no doubt seen the replica of The Guardian, the statue atop the Capitol dome, but the replica was recently damaged. How did that happen?

Shawn Ashley: Unfortunately, a member of the Capitol's cleaning crew bumped the statue while operating in one of the Zamboni-like floor polishing machines that are used to polish the marble floors. That bent a couple of the bronze feathers that came down on the statue. Now, bronze workers have examined the statue to determine what, if any, repairs may be necessary. And I noticed on Thursday evening that cleaning crews are now placing safety cones around the statue so they do not come too close while cleaning the floors.

Dick Pryor: I'm sure they will be extra careful now. Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, email us at news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @ecapitol. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I’m Dick Pryor.

Dick Pryor has more than 30 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November 2016.
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