Eight newly elected senators took their oaths of office Wednesday, adding seven freshmen to the GOP caucus and one to the dwindling number of Democrats in the state Senate.
Sixteen members were re-elected to the Senate, retaking the oath Wednesday as it was administered by Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Taylor.
Of the sixteen returning members, four are Democrats and 12 are Republicans. Only odd-numbered Senate seats were up for election this year.
“I'd like to thank the two Democrats up there in the gallery today,” joked Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, when his turn to introduce his friends and family arrived. Garrison was elected to his third and final term by voters in Senate District 9.
The political breakdown of the Senate will now be 36 Republicans to 12 Democrats when the session begins again in February.
Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, used his turn to respond, “Members, it's a pleasure to be here today, and Sen. Garrison, if you could point out those Democrats please, we want to come after them if we can.”
Marlatt is serving his second term and was also re-elected as Majority Caucus Chair by the Republicans in the Senate.
After being sworn in, the Republican members met to elect their leadership, keeping Sen. President Pro-Tem Brian Bingman in place as the Senate leader. He will officially be elected to the position on Jan. 8 when the Senate meets again for an organizational day.
“We're very excited about our new freshmen Senators coming in,” Bingman said, introducing the seven new Republicans, four of whom took seats that had previously been held by Democrats.
Bingman said Republicans will be going on a retreat to set their positions on policy, including education funding, the controversial health care exchange mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act and efforts to again reduce the state income tax while examining tax credits and tax breaks.
Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, was again named Majority Floor Leader, meaning he will manage the floor during most Senate meetings.