Despite its dominance, GOP not producing major gains in 2013 Legislature

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: April 14, 2013
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WHAT happens when someone has little reason to fear being fired and others have little reason to think they can move up the ladder? We may be seeing the result in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Republicans enjoy supermajority control of both chambers of the Legislature and hold the governor's office, yet progress on major issues remains as difficult — if not more so — than when Republicans and Democrats locked horns during years of divided government.

Gridlock occurred in last year's tax debate and could derail this year's effort to address the state's No. 1 economic challenge — our out-of-control workers' compensation system.

Ironically, that legislative inertia may be the result of the GOP's one-party dominance. Today Republicans don't fear losing control and Democrats don't honestly think they can regain it. In a competitive system, both parties strive to generate policy results that boost their electoral appeal. But in a system where wins are automatic based on party affiliation, two things occur: complacency, and the dominant party becomes dominated by people simply seeking power instead of pursuing policy goals.

That's detrimental to Oklahoma's future. It also explains why legislative Republicans are now often the impediment to enacting conservative reforms their party once embraced.

Consider workers' compensation improvement. Although Senate Republicans boldly approved legislation to overhaul the system, House Republicans have been holding back and watering down reform. The bill advancing from House committee last week did not include several provisions deemed crucial by state businesses. A major conservative goal could be undermined or even thwarted by Republicans.

Compare the current state of affairs with the achievements of the Republican House majority of 2005-2006. That group approved the largest tax cuts in state history. Funding reforms put in place in 2005 have since pumped an additional $1 billion into transportation infrastructure. High school graduation standards were adopted. Lawmakers even took a serious stab at workers' comp reform (later thwarted by court rulings, leading to today's overhaul effort).

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