The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would let voters decide if the system for selecting judges should be dramatically altered. Senate Joint Resolution 36, by Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, passed by a vote of 32-15 and heads to the House. The measure would abolish the Judicial Nominating Commission. The panel reviews candidates for judicial posts and recommends names to the governor for selection. The measure would result in the governor picking a candidate without the commission’s input. The measure also would require Senate confirmation of judicial picks. “If the Senate is not in session when an appointment is made, the governor may call the Senate into special session no more than once per quarter to advise and consent on any such appointments,” the measure said. Jolley said it is imperative that the executive and legislative branches of government have a check and balance on the third branch of government. “The way the JNC is structured, you have the judiciary picking the judiciary and the executive having very little control regarding who is selected,” Jolley said. Sen. Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee, voted against the measure. “It would inject politics into selection of judges,” Laster said. “All you have to do is look at what goes on in Washington, D.C., and see how partisan and political the confirmation of a judge process is. I just don’t think the people of Oklahoma want to do things the way they do things in Washington, D.C.”Comments
Appointments eyedIn other action, the Senate passed a measure giving the governor greater control over nine large state agencies. Senate Bill 606, by Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, would let the governor select the heads of the following agencies: Office of Juvenile Affairs; Oklahoma Employment Security Commission; Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Department of Health; Department of Human Services; Department of Transportation; Department of Veterans Affairs; and Department of Rehabilitation Services. The selections would be subject to Senate confirmation. The measure passed by a vote of 31-15.