Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commission Proposal Nearly Passes

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commission Proposal Nearly Passes

Article excerpt

The Oklahoma House came close to approving a proposal for a statewide vote on making the Oklahoma Corporation Commission an appointive body when members reconsidered the idea Thursday.

Rep. Larry Rice, D-Pryor, planned to put the proposal before the House a third time next week, and Thursday's near success made his chances look fair.

"When you're only that short" on votes, "I think he at least has some chance," said House Speaker Glen Johnson, D-Okemah.

House members on Wednesday defeated the first of two companion measures by Rice for a statewide vote on amending the Oklahoma Constitution to make the commission an appointive body rather than elective. The vote then was 57-44.

State representatives voted 52-48 for the same bill when Rice brought it up again Thursday.

But when Rice attached an amendment to the second of the companion measures that raised conflict-of-interest concerns among legislators, representatives made their vote on the first bill ineffective by defeating the second piece of legislation 54-45.

Rice's amendment would have given appointed corporation commissioners up to six months to divest themselves of any financial interest in any business that the commission regulates. Current law requires immediate divestment.

Rep. Wanda Jo Peltier, D-Oklahoma City, said Rice's amendment could leave the door open for the governor to appoint former utility officials to the Corporation Commission.

Although she had helped lead the fight for Rice's proposals, she led the opposition after he attached the amendment.

"It allows people now regulated by the Corporation Commission to be appointed in a process even more corrupt than the election process," Peltier argued. "It prostitutes the process."

Rice maintained taking out the six-month grace period would discourage qualified potential appointees who faced conducting a fire sale on a lifetime of investments. …

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