Monday, December 22, 2008

Changes expected as Republicans control legislature

Changes expected as Republicans control legislature

Karen BradyThe Express-Star

December 17, 2008 04:37 pm— For the first time since statehood, Republicans hold the majority in the Oklahoma State Senate as well as in the House of Representatives.

"There will be plenty of changes, we can expect that," said Senator Ron Justice, R-Chickasha. "I think it's interesting that for the first time in the history of the state, Republicans have held the majority in the senate. We have in the house for a few years, but this is the first time in the senate. Basically, it puts more Republicans in leadership positions on committees, but Senator Coffee, (President Pro Tempore), has appointed Democrats as vice chairs and I think he has been very open, evaluating people's backgrounds and expertise as far as committee assignments."

Justice credits the state's conservative values for Oklahoma's change from a "blue" state to a "red" state.

"We talk a lot about parties and issues that affect rural and urban areas; it's not just party-line voting," he said. "The important thing is that with the Republicans in the majority, a lot of goals have been set, and it's important to stand by our commitments and continue to do the things we promised to the people and to stay focused on the things we've talked about."

While State Representative Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, admits it is harder to get bills heard when you are in the minority, he feels his conservative beliefs are an asset to him.

"I'm fortunate to be able to work better with Republicans than other Democrats because of my background and beliefs as a moderate conservative," said Dorman. "We knew things would change when the Republicans took over, but it really stayed the same - it just flipped. I've worked with a lot of Republican members so they know they can work with me."

As far as committee assignments, Dorman said the system stayed "basically the same."

"People still get to serve on three committees, but maybe not the ones they want," he said.

Freshman representative Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, who was recently named a deputy whip under the leadership of Majority Whip Mike Jackson, R-Enid, hopes to be assigned to the Ag Committee because of her personal involvement in agriculture.

"I prefer ag and natural resources because I'm involved in agriculture and they have to do with the new state water plan," said Osborn. "Statewide water resource board meetings make huge decisions about what happens to Oklahoma's water.Texas is wanting to buy our water from the Red River, but you don't sell precious natural resources just for money; the state has to chip in with new infrastructure."Osborn said as a deputy whip, her duties would be to keep an eye on upcoming bills, how people may vote and keep up momentum."I'll act as an open ear as to how people are thinking about voting and whether they need more information," said Osborn. "It's all new to me, but I think it sounds interesting and I'm looking forward to it; there are some real exciting programs."
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