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Capital City: Party lines drawn on agency proposal

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Gusty wind did not prevent continued renovation work Thursday, Jan. 25, on the Oklahoma Capitol's south side. [Photos by Thomas Maupin, For The Oklahoman]
Gusty wind did not prevent continued renovation work Thursday, Jan. 25, on the Oklahoma Capitol's south side. [Photos by Thomas Maupin, For The Oklahoman]

Good Thursday morning. 

First up -- Partisan lines are drawn on an agency reform proposal being pushed forward by Republicans. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday accused Democrats of protecting the status quo after the minority party criticized his agency reform proposal, which Republican leaders expressed support for this week.

“This shouldn't be a partisan issue at all, this is about managing state government,” Stitt, a Republican, said about a series of bills that would restructure the boards of five state agencies, while also giving him the authority to hire the agency directors.

In a brief interview with The Oklahoman, Stitt said, “If (Democrats) are going out and trying to immediately attack these things it’s just typical partisan politics, which is frustrating because we are all Oklahomans here.”

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said she doesn’t believe voters want changes made to state boards. Virgin said she and other Democrats met with Stitt on Monday to discuss the proposal.

“The issue for voters was that our state was chronically underfunded in many core services, and no one was telling us we need to give the governor more power to fix things,” Virgin, D-Norman, said.

You can read more here about the agency reform proposal and lawmaker responses. 

STITT'S FINANCES ... Gov. Kevin Stitt recently filed financial disclosure forms that provide a glimpse at how he has invested some of his wealth.

The forms, which are required of all state elected officials but are typically little more than box-checking, reveal for the first time Stitt’s varied holdings in real estate, energy and banking across multiple states, reports Oklahoma Watch

Stitt, who has asked Attorney General Mike Hunter to review his plan to separate from his business interests while governor, disclosed 30 different companies or investments in a February filing with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Among the entities were commercial and industrial office buildings in Dallas and Denver, a bank holding company in Pryor and various stock and real estate investment funds. Other companies held planes and vacation rental homes on the Florida coast.

STATE SAVINGS ... From NonDoc: SJR 1 by Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow, would ask Oklahoma voters to approve doubling the 15 percent Rainy Day Fund cap to 30 percent, but the measure did not receive a hearing by Thursday’s committee deadline.

“A lot of the SJRs got laid over just for the sheer fact that they can’t go on the ballot before we have another session, so a lot of the authors said, ‘Hey, I don’t want to put it out there and give opposition a year to fight against it,'” Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada. “I can’t say for sure that’s why that one wasn’t heard, but on a lot of the SJRs that didn’t get heard, it was just merely a timing issue.”

FORMER EMPLOYEES SUE STATE ... More than 150 former and current employees have accused the Oklahoma State Department of Health of wrongful termination in a petition filed Monday in Oklahoma County District Court, reports the Tulsa World

The 156 plaintiffs — including many from Tulsa, Rogers, Creek and Wagoner counties — were fired, forced to resign or forced to retire in 2017 and 2018 after the department claimed the termination of about 200 employees was necessary due to a $30 million fund deficiency.

INBOX: GOVERNOR PLANS TO AUDIT HEALTH CARE AUTHORITY ... Gov. Stitt's office announced Wednesday he has submitted a request to the Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector’s Office for an audit of Medicaid enrollment in the state of Oklahoma for the period July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2018.

“It is important that we ensure our resources are supporting those in our state that need it the most,” said Stitt. “States across the nation have already completed Medicaid audits and found significant savings because of it. I believe this audit will allow us to continue to be transparent and efficient with taxpayer dollars while also ensuring we are providing a safety net for the most vulnerable in Oklahoma.”

Gov. Stitt has asked that the scope of the audit include the following:

  • Determine whether OHCA is meeting mandatory requirements for determining eligibility and re-eligibility or re-certification of Medicaid Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries
  • Determine whether individuals enrolled in the Medicaid or CHIP programs meet state and federal eligibility requirements
  • Determine whether OHCA is timely processing and removing from the Oklahoma Medicaid and CHIP rolls persons who no longer meet eligibility requirements.

Thanks for reading. Got questions, suggestions or complaints? Email me at bfelder@oklahoman.com. 

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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