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T.W. Shannon, of Lawton, officially takes Oklahoma House speaker's post

Shannon says he supports pro-business and conservative policies and will push back against the federal government when it oversteps its bounds.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: January 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm •  Published: January 9, 2013

Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, was elected speaker pro tem over Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, during the meeting. The vote was 68-28, also along party lines.

Shannon gave a glimpse of the House Republican caucus priorities for the session, which begins Feb. 4 and runs through late May. They include changing the workers' compensation system, reviewing the tax code, continuing to shore up the state pension system and taking care of state assets, including the crumbling state Capitol.

He said he would work to keep Oklahoma as one of the top states in job growth and one of the lowest in unemployment.

“When it comes to valuing life, we should set an example for the nation as well,” he said. “A society that does not value human life will fail — period. Valuing human life cannot end after a child enters the world, either. We must expand that definition so that we value life at all stages.”

He sprinkled in humor during his talk, saying if God gave him only four months to live he would ask that he be allowed to spend them in the House chamber during the session.

“They're usually the longest four months of my life, without a doubt.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, who hired Shannon years ago to work in his field office, attended Tuesday's session and called Shannon one of the most talented public servants he ever met.

“There was never any question that at some point he would run for elective office,” Cole said. “He was just too talented and too able. This is a more rapid ascent than any of us ever expected. It's a remarkable achievement and it kind of hints at the promise to come,” he said. “I really do believe some day he'll be a governor, a senator, a congressman, something like that.”

Shannon took his oath of office from Judge David Lewis, who last week became the first black to become presiding judge of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Shannon said Lewis, back when he was a Comanche County special district judge, had encouraged him to attend law school.

Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, called this an interesting time in Oklahoma's history. Also last week, Tom Colbert became the first black chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Even though Shelton, a black lawmaker, nominated Inman for the speaker's position, he said Shannon is a good role model for blacks and other minorities.

“It's tremendous,” he said. “It's the same thing that you see a lot of minorities do when they look at the president of the United States — they see themselves in that person and that's why diversity is good.”