OKLAHOMA CITY —
Questions of Oversight
In the days leading up to the JRI group’s vote on a coordinator, House Speaker T.W. Shannon filed House Bill 2042, which would be used to try altering oversight of the JRI.
The bill filed by Shannon was a “shell bill,” meaning it had no legislative text but served as a placeholder in which a lawmaker can later insert language.
On Feb. 4, the first day of the session, HB 2042 got its first reading and was referred to the House public safety committee.
Rep. Jason Murphey began drafting text for the bill and became its author. He told Oklahoma Watch that Shannon’s staff brought the JRI group to his attention and said changes needed to be made. Shannon’s office did not return calls from Oklahoma Watch seeking comment.
Murphey said because the JRI group was not codified in state law, and thus not subject to state regulations such as the Open Meeting Act, it was important to make sure the group had statutory authority.
“I think the feeling was that if the initiative were to be a success, it would have to be through a legally formed entity, but if it was an ad hoc group, it couldn’t be successful,” Murphey said.
He added that the bill did not seem like a major item to the governor’s office or any special interests.
On Feb. 14, Frazier sent an email to several Fallin staffers saying Murphey was thinking about a bill to codify the JRI board by assigning its oversight duties to an existing state board. Shannon’s office wanted the governor’s office’s thoughts on it as soon as possible, Frazier said.
“This would be doing the exact thing we didn’t want, right?” Northrup replied. “Would Steel (sic) be on it?”
Frazier replied that Shannon’s office was hesitant to take Steele off the JRI group.