Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State House Passes Measure to Dismantle Cabinet System/sponsored by Barkr

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State House Passes Measure to Dismantle Cabinet System/sponsored by Barkr

Article excerpt

A bill to dismantle a cabinet system put into effect less than a year ago when backers sought to reorganize state government was passed Thursday by the Oklahoma House.

The House voted 63-33 for the bill by House Speaker Jim Barker, D-Muskogee, who said the cabinet system was a costly mistake.

While Barker and others in the Democratic House leadership were reluctant last year to go along with the cabinet system, they ultimately embraced the program when it was tied to their effort to eliminate the state Department of Economic and Community Development and replace it with the Department of Commerce.

The cabinet system, generally based on the federal system, gives the governor a group of secretaries who oversee state agencies and programs.

But Barker and others argued Thursday that the cabinet system has created a new level of bureaucracy at a cost of more than $640,000, none of which lawmakers had anticipated.

Barker also said the system put appointed secretaries over elected officials such as state school superintendent John Folks, and created chaos and jealousies among the heads of agencies.

Republicans argued that Democrats were turning their backs on a system that Barker and others had pushed through the Legislature.

"The ones who pushed this bill (are) the ones who are speaking against it," said Rep. Frank Davis, R-Guthrie.

Davis and other Republicans argued that the system has been in effect only a short time and it is too early to expect savings and efficiency.

"It's in its infancy," Davis said. "It hasn't been given a chance. It can save millions and millions of dollars and provide more accountability."

But Democrats argued the system had proved itself to be unwieldy.

"I think it was a bad idea," said Rep. Steve Lewis, D-Shawnee, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "We can't make it work. It has built a lot of resentment out there among the agencies and the people. …

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