To whom will Governor Stitt be listening? (Capitol Update)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Kevin Stitt

It’s tempting to try to dissect the politics of the election last week, but I think it’s more helpful now to look beyond the election. With 46 new House members out of 101 and 11 new Senators of 48 and a new governor, accurate predictions are difficult. I noticed that Sen. Greg Treat (R-OKC) said Governor-Elect Stitt is a listener. I believe that is true. I went to one of his very early campaign events at the offices of his mortgage company in Tulsa. At that time, he had donated the first $500,000 to his campaign and had raised another $500,000. Anyone with $1 million in his campaign account months before filing will be a serious candidate. I came away from that meeting believing he would be the Republican nominee (although I admit to vacillating at times during the campaign.)

But, more to the point, the thing he said that evening that gives hope is that he had been interviewing the state agency directors and others in state government to learn all he could about state government. He had even interviewed State Auditor Gary Jones who was at that time an announced Republican primary opponent. So, I think Sen. Treat is right, that Governor-Elect Stitt is a listener. The real question is, to whom will he be listening? It won’t take him long to learn that most everyone at the Capitol has an agenda. So far as I can tell, his agenda was to get elected and to lead the state to a better future. You can pretty much fill in the blanks from there. He’s accomplished half of that. My hope is that he’ll accomplish the other half.

The 57 new legislators, plus many of the additional 46 members who just finished their first term, are going through the same learning process. What, specifically, does this mean for the policies of the state next year? I’ll venture a guess on four policy issues. First, it’s doubtful there will be more revenue bills passed. With Drew Edmondson running on raising more revenue for schools and Governor-Elect Stitt saying no, legislators are likely to feel Oklahomans rendered their verdict. Plus, with the uptick in the economic cycle bringing in more revenue, it will be easy to avoid that issue.

Second, expanding Medicaid next year is unlikely since Governor-Elect Stitt came out against it. It’s a legislative issue, but the governor would need to take the lead to get that done. Best possibility would be for Governor-Elect Stitt to endorse an “Oklahoma plan” which Governor Fallin was never willing to do, but I’d say that’s doubtful. If Oklahomans want Medicaid expansion any time soon, they’ll need to pass it at the ballot box.

Third, criminal justice reform is still on most people’s agenda, and more will likely happen. Governor-Elect Stitt has endorsed the idea. Whether the pace of reform can be increased will likely depend on the governor’s leadership. It would be a great thing if he used his honeymoon period to take giant steps in reforming Oklahoma’s criminal justice and corrections systems.

Fourth, government structure. There has been a movement toward eliminating boards and commissions that currently are largely appointed by the governor and who then set policy for agencies and hire directors. Instead the governor would be given the power to hire directors and set the policy for agencies. In the past Oklahomans have been unwilling to give one person that much direct power. Governor-Elect Stitt wants to increase the power of the governor, on the theory that this leads to more efficiency and accountability, and you can look for the Legislature to mostly go along. And there could be some realignment of agencies.

There are many more issues legislators that the new governor will face. New is always interesting – and sometimes productive!

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Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

One thought on “To whom will Governor Stitt be listening? (Capitol Update)

  1. Im hoping hes going to be listening to us the people , we need reconstruction , not bigger government with more purse strings to fill . what we need to do, is get rid of state taxes and apply education to property taxes and aline with Texas . Its time we turn oklahoma around. simplify government agencies,to make the do more with less instead of expanding.Its time this state starts paying off its debt and its time the citizens and towns and communities start seeing more of its money, so they can see improvement in their own communities. their is a bill that will hit Stitt’s desk in Feb. Please sir, Veto that bill . send that money to do the job it was suppose to do,in the first place , to help keep rural hospitals and clinics open , not line the pockets of a bunch of legislators, that are suppose to be working for us. If you are as smart as I think you are , you will stop this merry-go-round and help this state and all its communities , not just half . we need infrastructure, not bridges, as Obama did this, we need Black TOP , we need stop lights , we need street lights . we need improvements in our residential areas . SHARE THE WEALTH .

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