Governor Brad Henry signed a bill into law this week that will consolidate and reorganize the duties and functions of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
"The Department is a conglomeration of various government entities and the current set up is not working efficiently," said Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah. "This year, the Department received a 25-percent budget cut which caused the agency to have to restructure it divisions to streamline costs, personnel and activities.
The enacting laws that merged the functions of the agency aren't consistent and don't reflect current practices and industry trends."
Senator Wilson authored Senate Bill 823 which streamlines the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department to make it function more consistently and efficiently.
The Department is responsible for the state park system, the film office, travel and tourism, tourism information centers, regional marketing associations, and the Oklahoma Today Magazine.
Wilson explained that the new law will eliminate the span of control issues caused by three separate managers for park properties including parks, resorts and golf courses by consolidating control under a unified park management system.
The bill also adds the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame as a partner to the Oklahoma Film and Music Commission.
Three revolving funds will be eliminated including the Golf Course Operations, Quartz Mountain, and the Tourism Equipment Revolving Funds.
"These changes should have been made years ago. We found that, among other things, the revolving funds were obsolete and unnecessary," continued Wilson. "The Golf Course Operations Revolving Fund has been creating cash flow problems for the agency and the other two funds don't contain any money, not to mention the fact that they're completely obsolete."
SB 823 also provides career progression opportunities for Park Rangers by allowing them to retain their OLERS eligibility if they are qualified to move into management positions. Under the provisions of the law, the rangers will be required to maintain requisite training and certifications as required by OLERS.
"This is a step in the right direction for our state parks and tourism industry," said Sen. Wilson. "I think we're going to start seeing some major changes that will be beneficial to the agency, but more importantly to our citizens and tourists. We want them to be able to enjoy all that Oklahoma has to offer."
The new law will become effective November 1, 2005.