March 1, 2013
A legislative committee fulfilled an objective of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin by passing a bill Thursday that would abolish nearly 50 boards and commissions and another measure that would consolidate more than 40 others into eight panels.
The House of Representatives Government Modernization Committee voted 11-1 to pass House Bill 1455, which gets rid of 47 boards and commissions that haven't been active for at least several years.
“They just don't need to be there,” said Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, the committee chairman.
Among the panels marked for elimination are the Fire Ant Research and Management Advisory Committee, Advisory Committee for Motorcycle Safety and Education, the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Corridor Advisory Committee, the Oklahoma American Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, the Oklahoma Office of Volunteerism, the Cigarette and Tobacco Tax Advisory Committee, the Spaceport Territory Advisory Council and the War on Terror Memorial Design Committee.
One of Fallin's platforms when she ran for governor was to reduce the number of state agencies, boards and commissions.
“I look forward to working with the Legislature as these reforms move forward to ensure we deliver on our promise to provide Oklahomans with a smaller, smarter and more efficient government,” Fallin said Thursday.
She reminded lawmakers during her State of the State address last month that she remained focused especially on reducing the number of state boards and commissions, especially those that are outdated or duplicative.
Murphey said Fallin's Cabinet members came up with proposed reductions. If all reductions are allowed to occur, the number of boards, agencies and commissions in Oklahoma should fall by about 70 and put the number remaining in the state below 500, he said.
Health Commissioner Terry Cline identified 40 health advisory boards that could be consolidated into eight advisory panels. Those changes are contained in HB 1467, which the committee passed 11-1.
Savings, by eliminating mileage paid for advisory board members, freeing up agency staff time and audit expenses, are estimated at nearly $370,000, Murphey said.
Another several boards, councils and committees would be consolidated under HB 1470, which passed 11-1. Among the agencies being combined is the Drug Dog Advisory Council, which will merge with the Bomb Dog Advisory Council.
Two small state agencies would be consolidated into larger ones under separate measures approved by the committee.
HB 1474 would place the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board under the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The committee passed the bill 9-3. A similar attempt was made in 2010, but it ran out of gas when opposition mounted.
Oklahoma Energy Secretary Mike Ming said the consolidation would improve efficiency. The Corporation Commission did not ask to take the board, he said.
Committee member Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, who voted against all the bills dealing with agency, board or commission merger, consolidation or elimination, disagreed, saying consolidation doesn't necessarily result in efficiency.
"The independence of the (liquefied petroleum) board will be lost,” he said.
HB 1468 would place the Office of Disability Concerns under the Rehabilitation Services Department. It passed 11-1.
All the measures approved by the committee go to the House Calendar Committee, which will decide whether they will advance to the full House.