Chasm said to be widening among Oklahoma House Republicans

Speaker-elect fires staff, makes committee leadership assignments.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: December 1, 2010

Steele, R-Shawnee, said the cuts were made to help make up a $1.2 million budget cut this fiscal year.

“We 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,” 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 “and is respected by members of both parties.”

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.