Senate Bill 1695 couldn’t have had an easier trip through the legislative process.
The proposal to require cabinet official and agency heads file financial disclosure forms each year passed on bipartisan and unanimous votes in both of its committee hearings earlier this year.
On the House and Senate floors, there was no debate or opposition again as lawmakers quickly give the green light to the government transparency measure.
Gov. Kevin Stitt stopped the move in its tracks this week when he vetoed the proposal. Shortly after, the bill’s author, Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, told The Oklahoman that he would not attempt a veto override despite the overwhelming legislative support, effectively killing the bill this year.
Stitt’s argument was that the bill didn’t go far enough. In his veto message, he wrote that he wants lawmakers to “revisit this topic and pass legislation that subjects all state officers — whether elected, appointed, or subject to a retention election — to the same set of financial disclosure requirements.”
There was nothing stopping the governor from signing this bill and asking for the extra provisions next year. As Murdock told The Oklahoman, the governor never reached out to him about possibly amending the bill, something Murdock said he would have gladly done.
The governor’s decision comes as the Oklahoma Ethics Commission has rolled back many of the state’s financial disclosure requirements over the past several years, depriving Oklahomans information that could reveal potential conflicts of interest for some of the state’s top decision makers.
Before the 2016 elections, the commission, while citing privacy concerns and the burden of added paperwork, stopped requiring candidates from filing the forms.
The commission later slashed the number of state employees required to file it, from nearly 6,000 to 362. Now, only legislators, statewide elected officials and judges must file the form, with agency heads and other state workers exempt. As I reported previously for Oklahoma Watch, the information we require from officials who have to file is far less extensive than the federal government or many other states.
Oklahoma also makes finding the forms a chore. Although any Oklahoman can request the documents, the state doesn’t host the information online anywhere. That’s why earlier this year, Oklahoma Watch built our own database.
Let me know what you think. Do you think Oklahoma’s financial disclosure laws need to be stronger or is the governor right about taking a more holistic approach? As always, send me your thoughts by emailing me at email@example.com or finding me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.
A follow-up to last week’s newsletter: The State Election Board has blocked Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, from using Sean “The Patriot” Roberts on the ballot. But the board has allowed him to stay in the labor commissioner race.
Meanwhile, in another challenge, Jennifer Kerstetter was removed from the House District 65 race after her contest of candidacy hearing. Rep. Toni Hasenbeck was the only other person who filed for the seat so she will automatically win re-election. That means that of the 125 legislative seats on the 2022 ballot, 56 have already been decided because of uncontested races.
You can also view the whole contests of candidacy list and the related petitions here.
What I’m Reading This Week
- Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall on Thursday launched a special committee to investigate the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s dealings with Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen. [The Frontier]
- Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday sent a bill to the governor that would ban abortion procedures after about six weeks of pregnancy. [Norman Transcript]
- Lawmakers rapidly advanced a bill limiting school bathroom access to biological sex as members of Oklahoma’s top school board lamented being blocked from addressing the issue. [The Oklahoman]
- The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday advanced a measure that would bar state contracts with companies that discriminate against gun and ammunition manufacturers. [Tulsa World]
- Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Tuesday explicitly prohibiting the use of nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates, a ban experts say is the first of its kind in the nation. [The Associated Press]
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