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
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.
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.
“This is part of the business we're in,” said Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City. “If you're too soft and you're too weak to put up with that, you don't belong in here.”
House staff could find no records of when the House issued its last public reprimand.
“This event occurred in my office,” Sullivan said. “My staff is employed to do a job. They're not here to be vomited on by a member coming in spewing their bile, disgusting language.”
Terrill, in speaking against the reprimand, asked why previous transgressions went unnoticed. He mentioned members bringing alcohol on the House floor, having alcohol in their offices and having sex with a staff member before his microphone was cut off shortly before his allotted time expired. Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, who was in the speaker's chair, said Terrill had strayed off the subject.
Terrill also argued House rules require that any comment in which a member may be reprimanded has to be made on the House floor or in a committee or subcommittee meeting. Armes ruled the House has the authority to reprimand members.
Later, Terrill said the reprimand was an attempt by Steele to “bully, harass, intimidate and threaten the conservative members in the caucus into going along with their moderate to liberal agenda.” Terrill said it's also an attempt to make Reynolds and him the “whipping boys.”
Steele said that isn't the case. “The events that transpired today were based purely on the members' action and the merits of the behavior,” Steele said afterward. “I can assure you that it has nothing to do with other than making sure that members are held accountable for their actions.”
Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, brought the public reprimand complaint against Reynolds, who asked for a point of order while the Rev. Tom Hopkins gave a sermon
Hopkins, senior pastor at Southpark Community Church in Tulsa, is also an author and a speaker on living healthy lifestyles. He was talking about ways to live healthier when Reynolds complained that he was lobbying.
Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said then that Hopkins' comments were words of encouragement and told Hopkins to continue.
“I've never ever witnessed anything so disrespectful,” Kirby said Monday. “You do not disrespect a man of the Word.”
Reynolds said he apologized to Hopkins on the House floor. But he said he refused to sign a written statement, which irritated Kirby on Monday.
“Rep. Kirby after caucus said he would hit me right in the mouth,” Reynolds told House members.
“That deserves a