I find it helpful to use the occasion of the new legislative session to think back about my experiences and observations over the last three years and apply the knowledge picked up from this review to strategize how to conduct my efforts during the next year.
I can distinctly recall the comments of those who asserted it would be nearly impossible to pass legislation because politicians would be alienated with stances such as my pledge to sponsor a bill to reduce legislative pay, refusing lobbyists gifts and contributions, massively reducing government spending and voting against all new debt spending.
However, with the support of a large number of reform-minded legislators, I have been blessed to win approval for a number of legislative initiatives codifying a modernization agenda designed to reduce the size of state government while making it more transparent and accessible to citizens. This was done while still refusing to compromise on these principles.
There is no doubt that some legislators were offended by the pledges. And the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that there would have been a lot of truth in what those naysayers touted had it not been for the fact that Oklahomans forever changed state government by putting in place the policy of term limits.
Up until just a few years ago, the Legislature was dominated by powerful politicians who could easily squash any attempt to seriously disrupt the status-quo. I don't know that I would have ever experienced legislative success in that environment. Alienating a powerful politician by hinting at change could have made a life-long enemy who would have held the reins of power for many years.
Today, there are a large number of legislators who are truly "citizen legislators." as opposed to professional politicians. They have new ideas and don't mind listening to the ideas of others. We certainly do not always agree with each other, but it is not an unpardonable crime to suggest far-ranging changes. I have been honored to develop strong friendships with a large number of reform-minded legislators.
As citizen legislators, we know that we will be out of the Legislature in a short time. We don't have time for petty grudges or blacklisting our colleagues. If we want to effect change, we must work together in the time that we have.
In my view, term limits has been the single most effective tool employed by the people of Oklahoma to bring about a change for a better Oklahoma government.