Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reynolds files bill to restrict state hiring of ex-legislators



OKLAHOMA CITY (January 9, 2012) – State Rep. Mike Reynolds has filed legislation to eliminate loopholes that allow state lawmakers to accept high-paying state jobs after leaving the Oklahoma Legislature.

House Bill 2194 would make it illegal for any Oklahoma lawmaker to take a state government job that pays more than the base legislative salary. The ban would be in place for two years after a legislator steps down from his elective position.

“If lawmakers can be good public servants while earning $38,000 in the Oklahoma Legislature, they should be able to do the same thing at the same salary if they want to continue working in state government,” said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. “Most importantly, this legislation will end the perception that some legislators have used their political connections to feather their nest with cushy government jobs after they leave elective office.”

Although there is currently a ban on lawmakers taking state jobs for two years after the end of their terms in office, that ban applies only to positions funded directly by legislative appropriations. That loophole has allowed lawmakers to accept jobs paid with federal dollars or fee revenue that is not appropriated.

“I think Oklahoma citizens have made it clear that they do not want legislators to work in state government immediately following the end of their terms in office to reduce the chance of someone selling votes for a job,” Reynolds said. “By ensuring lawmakers can only take positions paying the same as the base legislative salary, we can end the perception of corruption that troubles so many Oklahoma citizens.”

Reynolds files this bill after controversy erupted in early 2011 over three ex-legislators receiving state jobs right after leaving office.

  • State Sen. Glenn Coffee was appointed by Governor Mary Fallin to serve as Secretary of State; Coffee had left the state senate in 2010 due to term limits. 
  • State Sen. Randy Brogdon was hired by Insurance Commissioner John Doak to work in the Insurance Department; Brogdon had left the state senate in 2010 to run for governor.
  • State Rep. Mike Thompson was hired by Insurance Commissioner John Doak to work in the Insurance Department; Thompson had left the state house in 2010 to run for Congress.

In the case of the three men, each of their salaries was paid for by agency-collected fees, in order to comply with the ban on ex-legislators being paid with legislatively-appropriated dollars for two years after leaving office. 

Former State Sen. Owen Laughlin also took a position with Commissioner Doak, but unlike the others, Laughlin had been out of office for four years, making his hiring clearly above any controversy.

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