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More executive power on wish list for Oklahoma governor

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SUE OGRACKI / AP PHOTO

Published 02/03/2020 | Reading Time 1 min 29 sec 

By Sean Murphy, with the Associated Press 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, the CEO-turned-governor who broadly expanded executive powers in his first term last year, will ask the Legislature to extend those even further as he lays out his vision in his second State of the State address to lawmakers on Monday.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate will convene at noon, and Stitt will deliver his speech about 45 minutes later in the House chamber. Stitt also will release his executive budget for the upcoming year based on about $8.3 billion in available revenue, roughly the same amount as this year’s spending plan.

The Legislature last year agreed to give the governor the power to hire and fire the directors of the state’s five largest agencies, taking that ability away from boards of appointees, and Stitt said he planned to seek more moves like that this year. He also wants lawmakers to consider consolidating a number of state agencies.

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But the governor’s growing power already has led to clashes with the Legislature, even among fellow Republicans, over his influence on state agency budgets, long the purview of the Legislature.

“It’s concerning to us that these agency directors are being more beholden to the governor instead of to their consumers and the people that they serve,” said Rep. Emily Virgin, the House Democratic leader.

Stitt told reporters last week other priorities will be protecting funding for public schools, ensuring the state’s driver’s licenses are compliant with the federal Real ID Act and challenging state agencies to get rid of any regulations that could be stifling the state’s economy.

Stitt will enjoy a heavily Republican-controlled Legislature, where the GOP has a 77-23 edge in the House and a 38-9 advantage in the Senate. Each chamber is short one member due to resignations from office.

What’s not clear is how Stitt’s fight with the Native American tribes over casino gambling might affect his relationship with lawmakers. The impasse developed, after last session ended, when Stitt proposed renegotiating the compacts to give the state a larger share of casino revenue. Some tribal nations in Oklahoma are as powerful as any major industry, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue and doling out more than $1.1 million the last two election cycles to candidates in both parties.

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