There is a move in the Oklahoma Legislature to eliminate senators’ authority to recommend tag agents and appoint county election board secretaries. Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield said he wouldn’t necessarily support the changes.


There is a move in the Oklahoma Legislature to eliminate senators’ authority to recommend tag agents and appoint county election board secretaries. Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield said he wouldn’t necessarily support the changes.


On Monday, Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, said he would file a bill to prohibit senators from recommending tag agents to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, on Tuesday said he plans to introduce legislation that would end senators’ authority to appoint county election board secretaries. Both Coffee and Corn said the measures are designed to end political patronage.


“This legislation simply removes patronage and returns professionalism to the appointment and management of tag agencies,” Coffee said. “It’s time for this patronage to end, and I’m happy to bring it to a painless, peaceful conclusion.”


“(County election board secretaries) are particularly demanding and consequential posts, and they should be filled by qualified and experienced administrators,” Corn said. “These positions are far too important to be determined by patronage.”


Local tag agencies are run by private contractors. Tag agencies handle vehicle registrations, titles, license plates and driver’s licenses. The Oklahoma Tax Commission regulates the taxes and fees charged. Monies collected go to the OTC, and tag agencies collect a small fee on each transaction.


In rural areas, state senators recommend the individuals they believe should be tag agents within their districts. The OTC makes appointments based on those recommendations. Under Coffee’s proposed legislation, the OTC would directly appoint all tag agents. Corn introduced similar legislation in 2005, but the measure was not heard.


Crutchfield said while he doesn’t necessarily enjoy the responsibility of appointing tag agents, it does allow for an element of local control. He is also concerned that urban legislators may want to eventually consolidate or eliminate rural tag agencies. The existing system offers citizens a convenience of service that is important, he said.


Corn believes legislators should no longer select county election board secretaries. Under his proposed bill, all election board secretaries would be required to have at least three years of experience before they can fill to a county post. Presumably, the State Election Board would be responsible for their appointment. Crutchfield wonders why some think the change is necessary.


“All the people we have working as election board secretaries are good honest people who do a good job,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll find anyone better. We have one of the best voting systems in the United States.”


Crutchfield said concerns about appointing unqualified people to local positions as a reward for their political support are overblown, especially in his district.


“I have never asked anybody what their political parties were when I’ve made appointments,” he said. “I don’t know who any of them supported.”


Crutchfield said he had not seen either of the proposed bills and would reserve making a decision about them until later. The Legislature will begin meeting in February.


Steve Biehn, 221-6546
steve.biehn@ardmoreite.com