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Senate approves bill restoring powers to tourism commission

Senate approves bill restoring powers to tourism commission

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OKLAHOMA CITY –Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, has won Senate approval for Senate Bill 11X, restoring powers to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission, including the ability to hire and fire the agency’s executive director and restoring oversight of contracts and financial expenditures.

Legislation approved in 2018 transferred most of the powers held by the commission to the executive director, and made the commission an advisory panel only. Thompson said the findings of a report issued last year by the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) on spending by the agency examined questionable expenditures and contracts with Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen.

“I’ve been concerned about this since the LOFT report raising questions about some $16 million in taxpayer funds,” Thompson said. “That same report recommended the restoration of oversight powers previously assigned to the Tourism Commission. I want to stress, this is not about personalities, this is about policy that will provide a critical check and balance in how taxpayer dollars are used.”

SB 11X modifies the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission by removing its status as an advisory board. The members, appointed by the governor and subject to Senate confirmation, would have the ability to appoint the executive director and set their salary, and could only be removed by the governor with cause. The board would also have oversight of contracts.

Thompson praised the current executive director of tourism, Shelley Zumwalt, who has been working since being appointed last fall to address concerns raised in the LOFT report.

“I have the greatest respect for Shelley and complete confidence in her abilities and those of her team,” Thompson said. “These guardrails will ensure their dedication to transparency and accountability will continue in the years and decades to come. This is simply good public policy.”

The measure, approved in the concurrent special session, now moves to the House of Representatives.


For more information, contact: Sen. Roger Thompson at 405-521-5588 or email Roger.Thompson@ok

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