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Oklahoma governor flexes muscle to gain influence

Gov. Mary Fallin has backed legislation and is taking steps to attain additional power and influence in state government.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: July 28, 2013

Gov. Mary Fallin, with the assistance of lawmakers and Oklahoma voters, has attained additional gubernatorial power during her first 2½ years in office. And she doesn't appear to be shying away from attempting to increase her influence.

“Obviously she has flexed her muscle, and that's her prerogative,” said Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore. “Whether or not it's outside the realm of what other governors have done, it's hard to say. But she certainly has been active.”

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said Fallin, a Republican, has succeeded in increasing the limited powers given her office by the state's constitutional framers.

“They wanted to diffuse power,” Inman said.

“But Gov. Fallin is just another example of this effort by chief executives to overturn the will of the people and to get around the constitution, as it were, to try to consolidate as much power in his or her office as they possibly can,” he said.

Fallin, who is expected to seek another four-year term in 2014, denies she's making a power grab. Mostly, she said, she is following through on her 2010 campaign pledge to consolidate agencies and bring efficiency to state government.

“When I ran for office, one of the things I told the people of Oklahoma I was going to do was to work on right-sizing state government, eliminating waste, looking for areas that have overlapping services and agencies, boards and commissions,” she said.

Boards abolished

The Republican-controlled Legislature this year passed and Fallin signed measures that abolished nearly 50 boards and commissions and consolidated more than 40 others into eight panels.

Fallin in recent months has spoken out and criticized actions and decisions by the state Corrections Department and the Grand River Dam Authority.

She supported efforts last year in which voters approved a measure that eliminated an oversight board of the Department of Human Services and requires the director of the state's largest agency to report instead directly to the governor.

In 2011, Fallin backed legislation that revised how the state Board of Education is composed. The bill originally was filed after Democratic board members were uncooperative with the incoming Republican state schools superintendent.

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