Bill to hike statewide elected officials' pay moves through House committee

The pay of Oklahoma’s statewide officials would jump an average of 35%, but not right away, under legislation put forward in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

House Bill 2860, by Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, would provide for the 11 statewide office-holders’ first pay raises since 2008 and would not go into effect until the current terms for each expire. The first office to be affected would be the Corporation Commission seat coming open in 2024. The other 10 positions would see increases after the 2026 elections.

The full Appropriations and Budget Committee approved the measure, which did not go through a subcommittee, 22-6, with Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, quipping, “Was there any discussion about implementing a merit-based pay system?”

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More seriously, Bennett said he opposed taking up the issue before more pressing matters, including pay for teachers and other state employees.

Wallace, the Appropriations and Budget Committee chair, said his bill would have no impact on the budget currently being developed and that in any event the raises amount to less than $500,000 a year in total.

Wallace’s bill proposes raising the governor from $147,000 a year to $199,000 and the attorney general from $132,825 to $180,000. The other nine offices — three corporation commissioners, labor commissioner, insurance commissioner, state superintendent, treasurer, lieutenant governor, and auditor and inspector — would all be set at $155,000.

Those officers are now paid varying amounts ranging from $105,053 to $124,323.

In something of a surprise, the committee was also presented with legislation that would resume enrollment of new employees in the state’s defined benefit retirement pension. New employees have been required to enroll in a defined contribution plan — a 401(k) — for about a decade.

HB 2854, by Wallace, passed 23-7.

Also Wednesday, the House Alcohol, Tobacco and Controlled Substances Committee advanced several medical marijuana bills.

House Bill 1347, by Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, would direct the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to issue a request for proposals and select a seed-to-sale tracking vendor within 30 days of the act’s effective date, which as now written would be immediately upon the governor’s signature.

Oklahoma has had considerable difficulty implementing a seed-to-sale system, which officials say has made collecting relevant taxes and preventing illegal sales more difficult.

Also passed was HB 1350, also by Fetgatter, which would stretch out the medical marijuana licensing process and require more information from applicants. The House passed similar legislation last year but couldn’t get it heard in the Senate.

Another marijuana-related bill approved by the committee was HB 1734, by Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore, which would require dispensaries to post signs warning pregnant women that cannabis use can lead to low birth weights.

The committee also OK’d HB 2107, by Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, which would authorize research of psilocybin and psilocyn — psychedelic substances produced by some mushrooms. Some maintain that psilocybin and psilocyn can be useful in the treatment of some conditions, including depression, anxiety and chronic pain, and for palliative care.

The Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, meanwhile, approved HB 1546, by Rep. Anthony Moore, R-Clinton, which would create an “Orange Alert” to notify residents of escaped inmates. The alert would use the same network as the existing Amber and Silver alert programs and would be limited to a 40-mile radius from the escape point.

Feb. 6, 2023 video. The Oklahoma governor delivered his State of the State address to open the legislative session. Video via

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