A move is again afoot to make some of Oklahoma's statewide offices appointive instead of elective. What's new this time is that a key supporter holds one of the offices.
Labor Commissioner Mark Costello last week testified in favor of Senate Bill 598 by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. It would allow the people to vote on whether the governor should appoint the labor commissioner, insurance commissioner and state schools superintendent, beginning in 2018. Costello, a Republican elected in 2010, says the governor should have the leeway to appoint heads of state agencies.
We've long said that the labor and insurance posts are jobs for which competence instead of party affiliation should be the foremost requirement. Including the schools superintendent in this proposal may reflect dissatisfaction with the job done thus far by incumbent Janet Barresi, but at least it's not a political stunt as was a bill this year by Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, who lost to Barresi in 2010 and then decided the office should be appointive.
A change by voters wouldn't be unprecedented. In 1975, they chose to make the labor post an appointed position. They reversed course 13 years later and voted to make it elective again. Subsequent efforts to make the labor and insurance jobs appointive have gone nowhere.
Will this one have more luck? The insurance job has had a history of questionable officeholders. Efforts are under way at the Legislature to keep spending in check for the current commissioner, John Doak. As for the labor post, commissioners from both sides of the aisle have left plenty to be desired.
Oklahomans may well prefer leaving these three offices elective. But lawmakers ought to give them a chance to make that known by sending this proposal to a vote of the people. They previously voted to limit all statewide elected officials, including Costello, to two terms.