State Journal: Bellmon's next move; Lobbyists's lobby prevails in Topeka
Henry Bellmon has decided not to seek another term as Oklahoma's governor, opting instead to focus his efforts on constitutional reform.
"The advantages of the incumbency are considerable and I have little doubt that should I become a candidate for governor I could be re-elected" in 1990, Mr. Bellmon said in a March 16 statement. "However, there are remaining tasks which cannot be accomplished by a governor who is running for re-election."
In the statement, Governor Bellmon said the existing constitution has diffused executive-branch authority among more than 200 boards, agencies, and commissions, making the job of governing "extremely difficult."
"In effect, dozens of little 'czars' are in control," he continued. "Oklahoma state government needs to be more accountable and more responsible to the people. I believe that a 21st-century state constitution is the greatest legacy I can leave Oklahoma."
Mr. Bellmon also noted that although "education is said to be our top priority, ... the constitution hampers local support of common education and creates conflicts in higher education."
Last year, the Governor created a task force to study the constitution and recommend changes. The group is expected to release its report by early fall.
Wendy Johnson, Mr. Bellmon's assistant press secretary, said the Governor plans to spend much of his next 21 months in office raising funds in support of a petition drive to place the proposed reforms on the 1990 general-election ballot.
Kansas school districts will once again be able to hire lobbyists to take their cases to state lawmakers, under a bill signed recently by Gov. Mike Hayden.
Last year, the state's attorney general issued an opinion that challenged the right of districts to use taxpayer dollars to pay lobbyists' salaries. The ruling, however, did not prohibit more affluent districts from continuing their practice of assigning a full-time employee to legislative activities.
As a result, this year there were only three lobbyists roaming the state capitol halls on behalf of Kansas districts.
The Kansas Association of School Boards was one of several education groups that lobbied in favor of the bill.
Norman Reynolds, the group's director of educational services, said the issue was one of fairness.
"The ability to lobby the legislature should not be the function of [a district's] size," he said.
--tm & ef