The author of Oklahoma's anti-immigration law and a chairman of key House revenue subcommittees for the past four years said Tuesday he refused a committee chairmanship because of concerns the speaker-elect is straying from conservative social legislation.
Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, said the fracture between conservative House Republicans and Speaker-elect Kris Steele is widening after he said last week he would ask fellow Republicans to focus on economic issues.
â€œI was offered a position but declined,â€ Terrill said. â€œI simply felt that it would be inappropriate for me to accept a position when I may not fully share
â€œI reached the point in my legislative career where I don't need a title to be relevant. This actually frees up more of my time so that I can focus on those conservative agenda items that are most important to me.â€
Those items include stronger anti-immigration measures, advancing and protecting gun-owners' rights and a conservative social agenda, he said.
â€œThere are a number of conservatives in the caucus who have serous concerns about Speaker Steele's commitment to advancing those agenda items,â€ Terrill said.
Terrill's comments led to expectations that the upcoming session will be more tumultuous than expected for Republicans.
Continuity among the House staff took a jolt when about a dozen staffers â€” including the House fiscal director who had been there 20 years â€” were fired. Others include a senior fiscal policy analyst, a research director and as many as six executive assistants for House
Steele, R-Shawnee, said the cuts were made to help make up a $1.2 million budget cut this fiscal year.
â€œWe cannot ask other agencies to deal with budget cuts if we are not willing to do the same, and the staff changes now under way are a result of that budget reality,â€ said Ray Carter, who is Steele's spokesman.
Steele earlier Tuesday announced the chairmen and vice chairmen of 26 committees and subcommittees.
Some conservative House Republicans were rankled that five Democrats were named vice chairmen; some called it unfair because the number of Democrats has shrunk since the last session from 39 to 31.
Democrats will be vice chairmen of the Common Education Committee and the Higher Education and CareerTech Committee. Education makes up about 52 percent of this year's $6.7 billion state budget.
Terrill said Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, the vice chairman of the Common Education Committee, is among the most liberal members in the House of Representatives.
Carter said Shumate has been a strong supporter of education reform â€œand is respected by members of both parties.â€
Terrill earlier this year was named as being part of a political corruption investigation. Another House member also named in the probe, Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, was named Tuesday as vice chairman of the House General Government Committee. No criminal charges have been filed.