OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The chairman of the Oklahoma House Budget and Appropriations Committee has warned members of the Ethics Commission that its decision to sue the state Legislature over the agency's appropriation could backfire.
Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, paid a visit to commissioners on Friday, marking the first time a legislative budget leader has appeared before the commission since it was created in 1991, said Marilyn Hughes, the commission's executive director.
“The legal advice and counsel that I received is that your lawsuit will fall flat,” Miller said. “It is a great risk that this commission will be undertaking because if you file suit, if the court takes it up and then you do not prevail, what is the likelihood of your funding increases subsequent to the court's decision? Because the Legislature can simply point to the court's decision and say that you're adequately funded.”
Commissioners agreed to continue discussions with Miller and other legislative leaders, but they also are moving forward with the possible lawsuit.
Members voted to ask the Contingency Review Board to meet and consider giving the agency an extra $238,000, which they believe will sufficiently fund office operations. The contingency board is made up of the governor, the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate.
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, said House staffers believes the Contingency Review Board cannot do what the Ethics Commission wants it to do.
A bipartisan budget approved earlier by legislative leaders and the governor resulted in the state Ethics Commission receiving about $668,000 for the 2009 fiscal year. That's a 30 percent increase, but below the commission's request of about $906,000.
Commission Chairman Don Bingham said the agency, which handles campaign finance reports as well as regulates ethical conduct of state officers and employees, can't do its job without the additional funding.