Stitt calls bill changing turnpike authority ‘unconstitutional’ | Oklahoma

(The Center Square) – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt called a bill that would erase his authority to appoint members to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority “unconstitutional” in his veto message.

House Bill 2263 would have allowed the House and Senate leaders to appoint two members each to the authority and allow the governor to appoint two. Currently, the governor appoints all six members. The bill also reduced the member’s terms from eight years to six.

Stitt said if the bill were to become law, it would face legal challenges.

“While the Legislature has the authority to make law, it does not have the power to carry it out or to appoint agents charged with the duty of enforcement-a purely executive function,” Stitt said on Friday. “Simply put, although the Legislature declares policy, it cannot oversee the execution of the policy it declares. Any argument or advice to the contrary should be seen for what it is a well-paved road to a legal dead end.”

The authority has been scrutinized since February 2022, when it announced a $5 billion turnpike expansion plan largely opposed by residents in its path.

Last month, the authority announced it was suspending work on the plan after it had trouble accessing the bond market. Wells Fargo pulled out as the authority’s bond underwriter after it was placed on a list of blacklisted companies by State Treasurer Tim Russ for its environmental, social and governance policies, according to a report in American Banker.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond called for an investigation into the authority over its financial practices.

“I have had many conversations over the past few months with legislators, community leaders, private citizens and state employees who have expressed a wide array of concerns with the financial conduct of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority,” Drummond said in a letter to State Auditor Cindy Byrd. “Additionally, I am aware of a District Court’s finding that the OTA ‘willfully’ violated the Open Meeting Act. Such a blatant disregard for openness and transparency suggests to me a willingness to engage in any manner of unlawful conduct.”

This article First appeared in the center square

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