by Representative Kevin Wallace, Oklahoma House District 32
In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Kevin Stitt put consolidation and reform of state government and agencies at the top of his list of priorities.
Oklahoma has almost 200 state agencies, boards or commissions, with more than 60 of those seeking some type of appropriation each year from the Legislature. The governor would like to see the functions of these entities streamlined.
For starters, he would combine the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Authority. Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz already is working to combine back office and common functions shared between the agencies and streamlining operations that are duplicative in nature while maintaining management functions unique to each entity.
The governor is working on similar initiatives between the Department of Corrections and the Pardon and Parole Board. He already has consolidated investigators between the two, streamlining the case work while increasing it by 118% over 2018, all without additional funding.
Integrating the state Department of Health, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the licensing boards that deal with health is also a priority for Stitt. He points out that Oklahoma has 10 different state agencies passing money through the Medicaid program and 18 state entities that license health care facilities and providers.
Lawmakers will be examining these plans in detail. I certainly want to see efficiencies in government and a decrease in unnecessary regulation, but not at the expense of ensuring state citizens and consumers are protected.
At the Legislature, we are in our second week of Committee work and floor sessions in the House and Senate. Our Appropriations & Budget subcommittees will finish hearing House bills Feb. 17. We then have until Feb. 27 to pass measures out of regular committees. March 12 is the deadline by which all House bills have to pass on the floor to proceed to the state Senate. Then, each chamber will start considering bills from the opposite legislative chamber.
As legislation passes in committee, it becomes eligible to be considered by the entire House. One bill passed by the House this week, House Bill 1182, would revoke a physician’s license that performs an abortion except when a mother’s life is in danger. This bill is another in a long line of protective measures we’ve taken in the Legislature to restrict the practice of abortion in our state. The bill now resides in the Senate.
As I’ve expressed before, we expect to have a flat or slightly reduced budget for Fiscal Year 2021. We will get final certified numbers from the state Board of Equalization on Feb. 18. Things are coming together for our appropriations bill, but we still need a few more of the pieces before we put the final puzzle together.
Kevin Wallace is the state representative for House District 32, which includes all of Lincoln County and a small portion of Logan County. He is the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and also serves on the house Natural Resources and Wildlife Committees. A lifelong Lincoln County native and Wellston High School graduate, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1993. Kevin founded American Cellular Service and Dynatek Development Services, which he sold in 2000. That same year he founded SWT Construction, where he continues to serve as a manager. He also owns an equipment rental company and a small investment firm. Kevin is co-owner of The Wilderness Refuge, a hunting reserve, and Wallahachie L.L.C., a whitetail deer and cattle breeding operation. He is an active member of First Baptist Church of Wellston.
As a long term state employee I have seen this before. While combining agencies sounds like a good idea initially, in the long term it ends up causing more red tape, delays and costs than keeping them separate.