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Sen. John Sparks is replaced as leader-elect of Oklahoma Senate Democrats

Sen. John Sparks was ousted as leader-elect. He will be replaced by state Sen. Randy Bass.
by Randy Ellis Published: April 12, 2014
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State Senate Democrats have voted to oust Sen. John Sparks from his position as Senate Democratic leader-elect and replace him with state Sen. Randy Bass.

The change comes amid a brouhaha that developed over Sparks writing a commentary in The Journal Record opposing raising taxes on the oil and gas industry.

Bass is now scheduled to replace Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, as Senate Democratic leader. Burrage chose not to seek re-election.

Intense behind-the-scenes negotiations have been going on between government and industry officials over whether the oil industry should give up at least part of a tax break that reduces the tax rate on horizontal wells from 7 percent to 1 percent for 48 months after the start of production.

The tax break is costing the state treasury about $250 million a year, according to an estimate published by a Tulsa-based group called Together OK.

“The issue of the horizontal drilling tax is an overriding one this session, especially considering the budget constraints we’re facing,” Sen. Bass, D-Lawton, said in a news release Friday. “We realize there’s a great deal at stake for everyone at the table, and discussions are ongoing.”

Bass said Senate Democrats “had agreed to let those discussions unfold before staking out a definitive position.”

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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