OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Republican leaders in the Oklahoma House are looking for ways to consolidate some of the 515 state agencies, boards and commissions in Oklahoma.
House Speaker Lance Cargill plans an interim study this month to look at the number of agencies the state has and how many might be consolidated or eliminated to boost efficiency in state government.
Along with performance pay for teachers, Cargill said modernizing state government will be his top priority in the upcoming legislative session beginning in February.
But some Democrats say any needed agency consolidation could be done within the current budget process if lawmakers scrutinized agencies and their requests more.
During the past year, Cargill and his staff have traveled the state talking to the head of almost every agency, seeking areas in need of reform. He said he hopes to reach beyond typical Republican rhetoric calling for smaller government and move toward what he calls a plan of action calling for the consolidation of several agencies.
“Oklahoma has settled for the status quo for too long,” said Cargill, R-Harrah. “We can do better.”
Several agencies have been mentioned as targets for consolidation, including the Oklahoma Alcoholic and Beverage Law Enforcement commission and the Water Resources Board.
Law enforcement and water issues are covered by multiple agencies, all with their own offices, administrators and budgets, Cargill said.
One example he cited was the Used Motor Vehicle and Parts Commission and a separate Motor Vehicle Commission for new vehicles.
Though it remains unclear how much money could be saved with any possible consolidations, Cargill said the purpose of the upcoming study is to analyze all the options before moving forward with specific legislation.
He also plans to push for an independent board that would review each agency at least once every eight years, which he says will help take politics out of the issue.
Legislation creating the Commission on Accountability and Review of State Agencies failed to pass last session.
House Minority Leader Danny Morgan said he favors government consolidation, but only “if it is done in the correct fashion.”
Lawmakers already have ways to limit and reduce state agencies through the budgeting process, he said.
Most of the boards and commissions also fall under sunset laws now, he said, where lawmakers must review each one after a set amount of time to see if it still is needed.
Too often, legislators don't require agency heads to justify the money they are getting each year. Instead, agencies often are funded at the same level they were the previous year, with extra money divvied up among agencies based on merit.
“We need those agency directors to be justifying what their agencies are and what they do,” said Morgan, D-Prague.
“We are abdicating our responsibility as legislators when we let someone else do what we should already be doing.”