Oklahoma House speaker-elect hopes to keep GOP members focused
House Republicans will decide priority issues during a retreat next month.
The speaker-elect of the state House of Representatives says he will ask fellow Republicans to focus on key issues and not get distracted filing measures that could be considered frivolous.
Legislators filed several bills this past session that could be considered extreme. None made it into law. It's unknown whether they'll resurface.
• The Legislature passed two bills that would have exempted firearms made and kept in Oklahoma from federal law. Gov. Brad Henry vetoed both. An override attempt on one failed in the Senate.
• A bill that would have prohibited radio frequency identification technology chips in state driver's licenses and ID cards passed the Legislature but was vetoed.
• A measure that would have allowed residents with concealed handgun permits to openly carry their weapons was vetoed. An override attempt failed in the House of Representatives.
â€œA big part of my job is to help keep our caucus and this body focused on our agenda,â€ said Speaker-elect Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. â€œWith a four-month session, it's important that we may remain focused on those agenda items.â€
Steele, and other Republican leaders are increasingly favoring priorities shared by several in the state business community who would prefer Oklahoma be in the national spotlight for economic reasons rather than legislators squabbling over immigration, weapons or social issues.
Steele calls economic development a big-ticket item this year.
â€œWe're going to be focused on doing all that we can to create an environment in our state that is conducive to job growth, job creation, job enhancement,â€ Steele said. â€œWe've got some good momentum, and we want to build on that and make sure we reach our potential in that regard.â€
In keeping with that tune, Steele said key topics next year will be changes in the workers' compensation system, lawsuit reform and reforming the state tax structure.
House Republicans, who are enjoying their strongest majority in state history, will develop their agenda items during a retreat Dec. 6-7 in Bartlesville.
â€˜We will speak up'
Since gaining control of the Legislature, Republicans have overturned gubernatorial vetoes of
Republican-sponsored state immigration laws passed in 2007 drew national attention for many of the same reasons.
Comments condemning homosexuals by a Republican legislator and a failed bill that would've exempted almost any firearm made in Oklahoma from federal gun laws also have drawn mostly negative national attention.
Steele said many business groups in the past have opposed such hot-button issues.
â€œWhere it negatively impacts business, we will speak up,â€ said Fred Morgan, president of The State Chamber. â€œWe'll try to educate legislators on how something that while well intended might have some negative consequences to the business climate.â€
Morgan, a former legislator, said Oklahoma is in a good position to improve its economy.