Wednesday, March 4, 2009

House Votes to Reform Appointment of Replacement Officeholders

The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted today to change the way vacancies in statewide offices are filled.
House Bill 1322, by state Rep. Mike Reynolds, would allow Oklahoma voters, not the governor, to choose the person who fills any vacated statewide office.

Reynolds filed the legislation to prevent any scandals from occurring similar to the one experience recently in Illinois, where Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was accused of trying to “sell” an appointment to the then-vacant U.S. Senate seat.

“The appointment power can easily be abused and Oklahoma has seen more than its share of corruption already,” said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. “The cost of a special election is nothing compared to the cost and embarrassment of having to impeach an improperly appointed politician, which is what the people of Illinois are facing.”

If any major office is vacated before the end of the officeholder’s current term that position would remain unfilled until the next general election under the proposal. Currently, the governor is allowed to appoint a successor.

Reynolds noted that Gov. Brad Henry actually endorsed a similar course of action when former State Auditor Jeff McMahan was under federal investigation.

Vacancies in the state Legislature are also filled through the election process and not by gubernatorial appointment.

In recent years, two major statewide officeholders have resigned due to legal troubles: McMahan and former Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher. Other vacancies have occurred in the offices of State Treasurer and Corporation Commissioner.

House Bill 1322 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote of 66-31. It now proceeds to the state Senate.

No comments: