House and Senate leaders filed responses Monday asking justices to stay out of a lawsuit filed last month by the Ethics Commission, The Oklahoman reported . The lawsuit accused lawmakers of violating the Oklahoma Constitution by appropriating the agency less than $710,500 to operate this fiscal year, which began July 1. The appropriation came from the agency’s own revolving fund made up of fees, the lawsuit said.
The commission asked justices to help the watchdog agency get at least $2.5 million to perform its duties, which include overseeing and enforcing rules governing state campaigns and rules of ethical conduct for state workers.
“Underfunding the commission has become the norm,” said Jan Preslar, the agency’s general counsel. “However, at this point it is clear the Legislature is trying to starve the commission and render it ineffective.”
Preslar suggested that lawmakers retaliated against the commission because of new gift restrictions.
House Speaker Charles McCall disputed accusations that lawmakers are starving the commission and that they acted in retaliation.
“There is no evidence to suggest that,” he wrote Monday.
Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz said the commission wants a “blank check” to fund operations and showed “a total lack of transparency” in requesting such an increase.
“The commission is an executive agency not unlike all other executive agencies created by the Constitution,” Schulz wrote. “And the Legislature is the branch of government required — and equipped — to determine adequate funding levels for all state agencies, including the commission.”
The commission’s lawsuit also requested that justices order Gov. Mary Fallin to convene a special session to make a sufficient appropriation to the agency from the state’s general revenue fund. Fallin said Monday that justices have no authority to order such a session.