Draft Constitution Deletes Business

Article excerpt

A draft state constitution that would remove regulation of the oil and gas industry from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and repeal most of the current corporate article was released Wednesday by the Oklahoma Constitution Revision Study Commission.

The draft constitution, prepared by the 27-member commission, also would repeal the entire article on insurance and would create a cabinet Secretary of Financial Regulation appointed by the governor.

Public hearings on the proposal are planned in six cities at 10 a.m. June 24. In Oklahoma City, the hearing will be in the Scarab Room of the Student Union Building at Oklahoma City University, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave.

The commission's final report is due to Gov. Henry Bellmon on July 1. The governor last year appointed the group, which is chaired by Attorney General Robert Henry. Nancy Davies of Enid is executive director.

Putting the commission's recommendations into action will be a piecemeal process that will take many months. Bellmon said he hopes to narrow the recommendations to three issues for a petition drive for state questions that could appear on the 1990 general election ballot.

He said the priorities would be strengthening the executive branch, removing obstacles to business and industrial development, and the establishment of an independent ethics commission.

The first petitions would focus on two to four issues, Bellmon said, adding that he would propose other changes to state legislators and ask that they vote to put additional questions on future ballots at the rate of three to five questions per election.

The draft constitution would repeal a section of the state bill of rights that says corporate records are subject to state review. Under this change, state officials could not access corporate records without a search warrant, said Andrew Tevington, chief of staff to the governor and a commission member.

However, income tax statutes would still apply to corporations, including the ability of the Oklahoma Tax Commission to review and audit tax records.

The draft constitution wipes out article 9 on corporations except for language on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which would be renamed the Public Utility Commission. Corporation commissioners would serve on the renamed commission.

The commission would regulate railroads, transportation companies, public utilities, motor carriers and public service corporations, but not the oil and gas industry. The State Legislature would be charged with statutory regulation of oil and gas.

The corporate article would be repealed because it contains antiquated antitrust and stock regulation language, and corporate law is more practical as statutory law which can be modified by the Legislature, said John Andrews, the Oklahoma City attorney who chaired the committee that worked on that section.

Tevington said the same line of reasoning applied to Article 19 on insurance. Although the draft recommends repealing that section, the constitution would still provide for a state insurance commissioner.

Tevington said in cases where a portion of the constitution was repealed and authority given to legislators, a scheduled effective date would be activated so no industry would be in a limbo situation regarding laws to govern it. …