Sunday, November 21, 2010

Changes in Oklahoma Government

Last week the new members of the Oklahoma Legislature took their oath of office. This action officially commenced the term of the 53rd Legislature which will last for the next two years.

Unlike Congress, the Oklahoma legislature does not have much opportunity to conduct business as a lame duck legislature. The new legislators are taking office just two weeks after being elected.

This sets in motion a series of legislative deadlines as in the upcoming few weeks legislation will be filed, new leadership teams will be appointed, the committee structure will be reviewed and new committee chairmen and vice-chairman will assume their new roles.

Compounding this level of rapidly occurring change is the fact that not only will new leadership teams take office in both the House and Senate due to the term limits of the House Speaker and Senate Speaker Pro-Temp but almost all statewide officials will leave office and, as of January 10th, a new team of statewide elected officials will start their terms.

These new officials are now seeking to establish their team of employees. This has created a talent vacuum as many of the individuals who will influence the shaping and implementation of policy are are now being retained by the new state officials and legislative leaders.

The newly elected officials are now making some of the most important decisions that they will ever make because the quality of their service will be extremely dependent on the work of the people whom they choose to operate their offices.

This presents opportunities for those who have worked hard over the past few years and have developed a reputation for having conservative values, interacting well with the public and being dependable and efficient. Their services are now in high demand. As an example, one of my former legislative assistants received three invitations to apply for work with a new office holder in just the last few days alone.

The first new policy proposals are also starting to take shape. Last week, House of Representatives Speaker-elect Kris Steele commissioned a committee to consider reforms in the legislative process with a goal of enhancing legislative transparency. Two of these possible reforms will include the requirement for House conference committees to meet in public before approving legislation and eliminating the loophole by which legislation presented to the House in the last two days of the legislative session does not have to be posted to public purview for a certain amount of time prior to consideration by the House.

You may recall my past updates in which I described how a substantial amount of legislation is presented in these last two days which greatly leads to the opportunity for changes to be placed into law without the ability of legislators or the public to know or understand the impact of the change.

These reforms, if enacted, will go a long way in making the legislative process more transparent and would continue a series of recent reforms which is transforming the legislative process to being much more open.

Property tax reform is one of the most demanded reforms by House District 31 constituents. Representative David Dank has already filed HJR 1001 and HJR 1002 which once again seek to implement property tax reform.

This is also the time when new legislative office assignments occur and as an item of note my office will be moving from office number 400B to office number 437 starting as of this week. Please direct all future written correspondence to Office 437, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, 73105.

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