This next legislative session will represent the first session during which Republicans will have control of both the legislative and executive branches of state government. As you might imagine this has raised the expectations of Oklahoma conservatives who desire the reform of state government.
In the past, even though Republicans controlled the Legislature, the Democrats remained in charge of the executive branch and that fact was used as a crutch that was baked into time-delaying processes utilized by Republican legislators who were less inclined to aggressively advocate for needed reforms.
For instance, reform legislation could be held up in committee with the argument that the governor would veto it and it would be wrong to make Republicans take a tough vote on it.
In a more complex example, Republican legislators were placed under heavy pressure to agree to fee and tax increases because the agreement had been negotiated with the Democrats in the executive branch. We were told that we risked a special legislative session if we did not vote for these increases and honor the agreement which had been negotiated. We were also told that a special session would risk exposing Republicans to defeat at the polls.
I never thought my vote should be influenced by the fact that our legislative leaders had negotiated a deal with the Democrats, or theoretical political ramifications, so I voted my conscience and did not play the political game. I figured that if enough of us voted according to the principles we campaigned on and actually defeated the government-expanding compromise agreement, the Democrats would be forced to deal with the political reality that Oklahoma's conservative populace demanded true reforms.
In my view, those compromises thwarted that day of reckoning, and to this day many of the needed institutional transforming reforms of state government have never taken place.
However, I do understand why so many of my Republican colleagues accepted this pragmatism and don’t hold it against them for buying into the status-quo arguments. After all, they were basically being told that we had to agree to hold our noses and vote for the status-quo so that Republicans could be elected to office and then we could reverse the fee increases and institute true reform. Well, that time is now! With a solid Republican majority in the Oklahoma House and Senate and a Republican in the governor’s office, there are no more excuses for not doing the right thing.
This is the time when we will see if the story that we were being told at that time was true.
It is my hope that we will be able to aggressively seek to bring reform to those state government processes into which generations of Democrat office holders have allowed so many inefficiencies and waste to accumulate.
I certainly intend to keep you informed as to whether or not this is the case as this year’s session gets underway.