Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.
Internal legislative politics is one of the most fascinating but obscure phenomena in our representative government. It mostly occurs behind closed doors, only occasionally breaking into public view. And those involved — members of the legislative body — normally see no advantage in telling the whole story. Internal politics happens in private phone calls, private one-on-one or small group meetings, in casual social or political conversations that are intended to be kept quiet, and usually are, even by those who disagree with the final decision. Almost everything in life happens for more than one reason, so it’s not difficult to obscure the more important aspects of an internal political debate.
An example of internal House politics came into full public view last week when Speaker Charles McCall (R-Antlers) replaced Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) as Chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. The Speaker’s spokesman said the replacement of Rep. Osborn had “nothing to do” with the fact that she directly and publicly disagreed with the Speaker and Majority Leader Mike Sanders (R-El Reno) about the way DHS director Ed Lake and his staff chose to deal with the shortage of DHS funding. On the other hand, Rep Osborn said, “It is a sad day when we cannot have an honest conversation about the major financial and budget issues we face as a state,” strongly suggesting that her public disagreement with the Speaker is the reason she was fired.
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