Business and social conservatives often differed in the Oklahoma House
Disagreements prevented Republicans from reaping all the benefits of having record numbers in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT •
Published: May 22, 2011
/articleid/3570258/1/pictures/1423528"> Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, cheers Friday with, from left, his daughter, Mackenzie, 8, his wife, Kellie, and daughter, Madison, 6, as legislators and their families sing “Oklahoma” in the House chamber at the end of the legislative session. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, the panel’s vice chairman, authored House Bill 1446, which initially included portions of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law.
But the bill over the weeks was toned down, and language resembling parts of Arizona’s law was deleted. Also gone from the bill are provisions that bar children of illegal immigrants from receiving tuition assistance for postsecondary education, allow state agencies to report illegal immigrants who apply for state or federal aid, and require employers to verify the immigration status of potential employees.
Additional deletions included outlawing the practice of illegal immigrants seeking work as independent contractors, and making it a crime to pick up illegal immigrants for the purpose of employing them.
Faught’s measure instead targeted human smugglers and others who prey on illegal immigrants.
Terrill voiced his opposition to the measure and was able to rally enough votes to defeat Faught’s bill in the last week of the session, which caught Faught and Steele offguard.
The immigration bill’s defeat was seen as a victory for social conservatives, whose efforts had been squashed throughout the session by committee chairmen and House leaders who had the ability to stifle their legislation and opposition.
Social conservative Republicans also teamed with Democrats to oppose a measure by Steele that would have set up procedures to develop an insurance exchange. After barely passing in the House, it failed to advance in the Senate. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, who originally accepted a $54.6 million federal grant to pay for the exchange, eventually backtracked and returned the money.
Social conservatives, unhappy with Steele before the session started, became even more frustrated on the first day of session when their efforts to challenge the speaker’s power failed.
Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, on the first day of this year’s session unsuccessfully tried to get an amendment passed to the House rules proposed by Steele.
He sought to strip committee chairmen of their power, which he said would have allowed members better success at having each of their bills heard by a committee. The failure of Key’s amendment lingered throughout the session.
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, said the amendment’s failure caused a virtual third political party in the House that banded together to bog down legislation and prevent passage of emergency clauses.