A joint legislative committee charged with examining the purchase and use of state aircraft will continue to work after the Legislature adjourns on May 30th. Legislative leaders announced today the panel will use the legislative interim to draft legislation and address any remaining issues in the inquiry.
"We're awaiting the state auditor's report and trying to tie up some other loose ends. We didn't think it would be a good idea to rush things in the last days of session without having all the pertinent information in hand," said Senator Stratton Taylor, President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate.
"I think the best course of action is to let the committee complete its work after session, instead of rushing things when we're trying to resolve important issues that must be completed before adjournment," said House Speaker Loyd Benson.
The legislative leaders anticipate the committee will make recommendations on legislation addressing both state purchasing laws and the use of state aircraft. The bills will be considered in the next legislative session.
To date, the committee has gathered hundreds of documents and other information related to state aircraft and taken many hours of testimony related to the purchase of Governor Keating's Kingair 350. The committee chairs say they think they have completed their examination of the aircraft purchase and are ready to move on to the use of state aircraft.
"I don't anticipate the need to call any additional witnesses on the purchase issue. We plan to move on to the use question as soon as the auditor's report is completed," said Senator Billy Mickle, committee co-chair.
The committee's work was delayed by a number of factors this session. Meetings were scheduled not to conflict with other legislative business and testimony was taken only when the witnesses' personal schedules would allow. There were also delays in receiving requested documents.
"We are very pleased with the work of the committee. Despite various delays, we have covered a tremendous amount of material in a very short time," said Representative Bill Settle, House co-chair.
Legislative leaders, meanwhile, commended the committee for the work it has done so far.
"Thanks to some very diligent work on the part of committee members, we're going to strengthen laws related to state purchasing and the use of aircraft. We'll be trying to eliminate any loopholes for abuse," said Speaker Benson.
"Without this committee, we would never have discovered the facts we need to help us make better laws. Before this process began, no one was volunteering any information. The committee had to extract it," said Senator Taylor.
The aircraft committee was created in January after numerous public reports about Governor Keating's use and the Department of Public Safety's purchase of the state airplane. Legislative leaders charged the 12-member, bipartisan committee with gathering all the facts surrounding the matter and drafting any law or policy changes it deems necessary.