OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Rep. Merleyn Bell, D-Norman, and State Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-OKC, were appointed to Governor Kevin Stitt’s Cares Act Legislative Advisory Panel on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2020.
The function of the advisory panel is to advise the executive branch on the distribution of nearly $1.2 billion in emergency funds that Oklahoma received from the federal CARES Act. The lawmakers are just two of three Democrats on the 23-person panel.
“Our number one priority is to ensure the money spent benefited Oklahomans,” Dollens said. “If there is money left to spend or additional funds in the future, the priority of my Democratic colleagues and myself is to protect Oklahoma’s workforce and find ways to help Oklahomans catch up with the cost of living.”
The representatives didn’t waste any time after their appointment to the panel to begin asking for information on numerous uncategorized expenditures of more than $100,000.
“There may be a reason these expenditures are uncategorized,” Bell said. “If that’s the case, we need to relay that message to the public. I think the goal of the minority caucus is to push this panel to be as transparent as possible with taxpayer money, and that’s what I hope to accomplish. I do commend the governor for putting this panel together. If done right, there is a real opportunity to improve public trust, which should be the aim of all elected officials.”
House Minority Leader Emily Virgin expressed her support and confidence in the newest panel members.
“I appreciate Governor Stitt for filling these vacancies and recognizing the importance of our caucus’ participation in this process,” Virgin said. “I believe both of these members will do a great job representing their districts and also the millions of working Oklahomans doing their best to get by right now.”