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Oklahoma Legislature could use more members like outgoing House speaker

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: May 31, 2012

As speaker, he said, he sought to make the House “a more members-centered model, to truly put the decision-making responsibility and the responsibility of researching and working on issues on the members and not so much on the staff and the lobbyists.” Even so, he said he is concerned about the sway held by lobbyists and special interests, which he fears is growing in part as a result of the state law that limits legislators to 12 years in office.

It was his own members, however, who shot down his effort to establish an ethics committee to oversee the conduct of House members. GOP members also soundly rejected a bond issue to pay for repairs to the state Capitol. “It became a situation where they would have been labeled at least by some as not being fiscally conservative if they voted for the bond issue,” he said. “They were afraid of being labeled a certain way instead of doing the right thing.”

Steele angered Senate Republicans and the governor's office when he refused to hear a tax-cut bill that had been agreed upon by all three parties. He did so after it was discovered that some Oklahomans would have seen their taxes increase. “I felt good about that,” he said. “Let's do it in such a way that's it's not going to increase taxes on anyone.”

His time as speaker “became ugly” at times. He strived to stay focused on the issues and keep from getting sidetracked. On the whole, “I think we were able to conduct ourselves and do the people's business in a way the people will be proud of,” Steele said. He is right to be proud of his work and his leadership. The Legislature could use more members like him.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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