Lance Cargill stepped down today as speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, saying news accounts about his personal issues were overshadowing the important work ahead for legislators. "For several weeks, our policies heading into the session have been buried in the newspapers, while personal stories have remained on the front pages," the Republican leader said at a news conference. "I take full responsibility for that, and hope that a new speaker can shift the focus back to the future of this great state." He quit as speaker after coming under widespread criticism for failures in the handling of his personal taxes. He will remain in the Legislature as a state representative. "One of the responsibilities of a leader is putting the needs of the whole before the needs of my own," Cargill said. "For the future I will, with more inspiration than ever, fervently pursue my ideas from a chair at the back of the chamber. I remain confident that we can still make 2008 a year of solutions." Taking over the powerful position on an interim basis will be state Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Goodwell. GOP representatives will meet at 8:30 a.m. Monday to begin the process of selecting the new speaker, Rep. Randy Terrill said. The full House will likely vote on who will be the speaker that afternoon, possibly right after Gov. Henry's State of the State speech. Cargill, a Harrah attorney, was first elected to the House in 2000 and served as House speaker for almost 13 months. His colleagues re-elected him for the post in October. At 36, he was the nation's youngest House speaker. His departure comes a week before the Legislature begins its 2008 session Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, said he doesn't think Cargill's stepping down will be disruptive to this year's legislative session. "From my perspective, our administration is willing to work with whoever is in a leadership role in the House and Senate," the governor said. "It really doesn't matter to me. We have our goals, legislative leaders have their goals. What we all have to do is sit down and work towards those goals and develop a consensus." Democrat House Minority Leader Danny Morgan released a statement on behalf of House Democrats. "There are good men and women who serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives," he said. "We look forward to working together with them to restore integrity to the House and pass legislation that is important to all Oklahomans." Cargill came under fire this month for failing to file his personal income tax returns and for repeatedly paying property taxes on his law office late. The Oklahoman reported that Cargill failed to file his 2005 and 2006 personal income tax returns until getting a warning from the Oklahoma Tax Commission. He blamed an accountant and said he was upset with himself because he was due refunds. The Oklahoman also reported that Cargill was delinquent six years in a row in paying the property tax on his Harrah law office. He was months overdue in paying most of the bills. "I take full responsibility for this error," he said Friday about his property tax bills. "I certainly apologize to the people of Oklahoma and to my colleagues, and will take steps to ensure these matters are handled in a timely and efficient manner in the future.” Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, said Cargill's troubles were of his own making. "It is unfortunate that it had to come to this, but Speaker Cargill brought his troubles on himself," Dank said. "The people of Oklahoma have a right to expect exemplary conduct of those they send to the state Capitol, and he failed that basic test." Cargill was pressured by his own party to step down, Dank said. "Oklahomans should know that his resignation came after considerable pressure from members of his own party," he said. "We are determined to advance a true reform agenda during the upcoming session, including passage of the ethics and campaign finance reform bill I have introduced to address many of the same issues that led to Speaker Cargill's resignation. I look forward to working with the new House leadership to make that bill a reality." The state Ethics Commission also is believed to be investigating whether Cargill had anything to do with how political checks intended for the Oklahoma Republican Party instead went to the Oklahoma County Republican Party in 2004. Cargill read from a prepared statement this afternoon in announcing his resignation and did not take questions afterward.