Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Rural Broadband Support Bill

On Tuesday, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill that would have created a Rural Broadband Expansion Council and given the Legislature more say in efforts to expand Internet access in rural areas.

by Kayla Branch, The Oklahoman / May 20, 2020
Shutterstock/Paul Brady Photography

(TNS) — On Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill that would have created a Rural Broadband Expansion Council and given the Legislature more say in efforts to expand internet access in rural areas.

This is the same bill sources previously told The Oklahoman was at the heart of budget feuding between lawmakers and Stitt earlier this year. 

Stitt said digital transformation has been a “top priority” for him, and the state secretary of digital transformation had already created a broadband task force. 

“Our current broadband task force is yielding great results, and the need for another task force is unnecessary and redundant,” Stitt said in his veto message. “This is a duplication of work, expertise and expense.” 

Stitt pointed to his administration improving its broadband ranking from 47th to 26th in the nation. 

House Bill 4018 called for the council to be funded through the state’s Digital Transformation Revolving Fund, which was also central to earlier budget arguments. 

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, was pushing the bill this session. 

When the Stitt administration indicated it was against creating more boards, sources said that was why McCall and other lawmakers pushed back on Stitt priorities in the budget negotiations by pulling funding from the Digital Transformation Revolving Fund. 

Lawmakers said they were pulling some funding because of concerns over transparency. 

“As I’ve told the governor, we’re happy to move forward with the digital fund once we have more transparency into what it is doing and his plan for it,” McCall said in a statement last month. 

The Digital Transformation Revolving Fund did not receive any dollars for Fiscal Year 2021, which starts July 1, Stitt said. 

©2020 The Oklahoman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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