OKLAHOMA CITY – A state lawmaker has requested an attorney general’s opinion on whether or not Governor Kevin Stitt has the authority to prohibit state agencies from hiring lobbyists.
State Representative Cyndi Munson made the request in a letter dated Aug. 29. Munson, an Oklahoma City Democrat, asked Attorney General Mike Hunter for an official opinion on whether the governor has “the authority to prohibit state agencies from hiring lobbyists through Executive Order or any other method.”
Munson’s request comes just a few months after Stitt issued a series of executive orders regulating the hiring of lobbyists by state agencies. Stitt’s most recent order prohibits agencies from entering into any new contract or renewing an existing contract with a lobbyist.
Stitt said the orders were in response to agency spending on lobbyists.
In a media statement issued by his office, the governor said several state agencies were collectively spending more than $1 million annually on contract lobbyists to advocate for their own special interests to the Legislature and the executive branch.
“The agencies’ practice of hiring contract lobbyists skirts transparency laws and empowers agencies to ignore voters’ mandates,” the governor’s statement said. “I quickly issued an executive order limiting agencies from entering into new contracts or extending current ones through the end of the 2019 fiscal year. My new executive order makes this restriction permanent during my administration. Oklahomans are united around a vision to make our great state Top Ten, and I will continue to pursue common-sense reforms, such as EO 2019-29, to ensure state agencies are in alignment.”
Since January, the governor has issued three executive orders tightening restrictions on lobbyists and memberships in professional organizations. Many state agencies and agency officials hold memberships in professional organizations that use lobbyists at the state Capitol. Stitt’s April order could limit agency participation in such organizations, further limiting lobbyists access to agency officials.
Under Oklahoma law, official opinions from the attorney general’s office carry the force of law, unless they are overturned by a court ruling.