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Oklahoma House scolds two members

Public reprimands are issued against Rep. Mike Reynolds for interrupting a minister speaking to the House and against Rep. Randy Terrill for allegedly using profanity and allegedly making a threat against the House speaker.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: March 15, 2011

The Oklahoma House of Representatives took the rare act Monday of voting to issue back-to-back public reprimands on two members for their actions last week in unrelated incidents.

Reps. Randy Terrill and Mike Reynolds, both Republicans, said the actions against them stem from their outspoken criticism of House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, for failing to support issues favored by the conservative block of the House Republican caucus. Reynolds and Terrill said it shows how fractured House Republicans, who outnumber Democrats 70-31, are.

Democrats complained it took time away from meeting Thursday's deadline to have House-generated bills acted on and sent to the Senate.

Some Republicans said Steele had to exert his authority over about a dozen GOP House members who have working to undermine him this session.

The action came a week after several GOP House conservatives walked out of the House chamber to block passage of an emergency clause on one of Steele's bills.

Steele said Reynolds and Terrill both refused to apologize for their actions, and that members brought the actions against the two. Reynolds and Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, were engaged in a shouting match Monday after the weekly House GOP caucus meeting ended.

The public reprimands were brought up after House members returned to the chamber Monday afternoon.

Reynolds, of Oklahoma City, was taken to task for interrupting a minister's sermon Thursday on the House floor. The minister was sponsored by Kirby.

Terrill, of Moore, was disciplined for allegedly using profane language directed at Steele and threatening the first-year speaker in comments made Thursday in the office of Floor Leader Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa.

After the vote, Steele's office released a sworn statement by an unidentified person who was in Sullivan's office to hear Terrill, who was frustrated that his bills were not being heard on the House floor, say he would break the good leg of Steele, who was crippled in a childhood accident.

Terrill shook his head when Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, read the accusation. Terrill denied using profane language or threatening Steele.

Many abstain

House members voted 67-17 to publicly reprimand Reynolds. Several Democrats took constitutional privilege, which allowed them to abstain from voting.

The vote against Terrill was much closer, with all but two of the 31 Democrats and several Republicans taking constitutional privilege. The vote 34-30.

Many said they took constitutional privilege because they were not allowed to see the sworn statement on Terrill's comments before they voted; others said that they hadn't heard Terrill's comments and considered conversation in offices to be private, and some said the state constitution protects their speech.

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