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House votes to disband Indian commission

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com May 19, 2011

Despite pleas from several members to wait and study the proposal, the House of Representatives approved a measure Wednesday that would disband the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission.

Several members complained the measure came up so late in the session without having to go through the traditional committee process. Legislators are hoping to adjourn Friday, a week earlier than scheduled.

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House members voted 57-36 in favor of House Bill 2172. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Rep. Ron Peters, the author of the bill, said the measure could come up so late because it is considered an appropriations bill, which is exempt from having to meet the same deadlines as policy measures. A similar bill was brought up the last day of last year's session.

Peters, R-Tulsa, said duties of the commission would be handled by an American Indian liaison to be appointed by the governor. The liaison would start work July 1.

The commission's office, which has an executive director and two employees, receives about $192,000 in annual state appropriations. That money would be transferred to the governor's office.

The commission is made up of nine tribal members from across the state.

Reps. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, and Danny Morgan, D-Prague, suggested the liaison instead should be a secretary on the governor's Cabinet. Other members said a Cabinet post would seem appropriate because the secretary would be dealing with the sovereign nations of the 39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma.

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