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Oklahoma House's Calendar Committee to determine fate of bills

The newly formed Oklahoma House of Representatives Calendar Committee will vote in an open meeting which bills will be heard by the full House. Previously, only House leadership was involved. The new committee is part of the rules that won easy approval during the House's first week in session.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: February 10, 2013
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Rep. Eric Proctor, the deputy minority floor leader, said the calendar committee provides more openness, but he didn't like the change was made when a woman is serving as floor leader for the first time in state history. Shannon named Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, to the post in December.

“In the past, that job has had immense power,” said Proctor, D-Tulsa. “The first time we have a woman floor leader, they take it away from her, which I don't like. I would have liked to have seen Rep. Peterson, of course from my same hometown of Tulsa, have that authority and still make the same decisions that male floor leaders made for us since the beginning of the state.”

“We've got a capable floor leader,” Shannon said.

“But we all recognize that when we have as much authority we have as the governing party, I think having some type of check and balance on yourself, opening up the process and allowing the members to have a lot more input, it's the way to go.”

The rules were approved easily, 67-27. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, was the only Republican to vote against the rules. It takes 51 votes to pass a bill.

“Our team stuck together,” Shannon said.

In-house struggle

Former House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, struggled during his two years in the leadership post with constitutional conservative members who last year resorted to working with House Democrats to derail or at least mire down the GOP leadership's measures. Some in that faction of the House Republican caucus take credit for Shannon's election last year as speaker-elect. Steele's preferred successor lost in a close caucus vote.

The feud in the House GOP chamber caucus has been characterized as a difference between those who support issues by The State Chamber, the largest group representing businesses, and constitutional conservative lawmakers who have been labeled anti-chamber.

Shannon has downplayed talk that a fringe element exists among his caucus.

The calendar committee is a factor why there was less tension during the first week of a House session, he said.

“People felt like I've got a voice, I'm involved,” Shannon said “That was my commitment when I ran for speaker and I want to keep that commitment.”