The committee chair shuffle (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

Steve Lewis
Steve Lewis

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. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

We move inexorably toward the next legislative session as some important milestones occurred last week.  The first, the deadline for making a bill request passed last Friday, December 12th.  That means any member of the House or Senate who plans to introduce a bill next session was required to identify his or her idea for legislation and make the bill drafting request to legislative staff.  The request is given a number, and the member now has until December 29th to submit suggested language for the bill.

The other important events were appointment of committee chairs and vice-chairs for the upcoming session by the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tempore.  Chairmanships are important because the chair of each committee controls the agenda for his or her committee, and that includes deciding which bills will receive a hearing.  If the bill is never placed on a committee agenda it cannot advance through the legislative process.  So for the subject matter of each committee-for example, education-the chair has a lot of control over the public policy for that area of the law.  Everyone interested in a given area wants to know the committee chair for that area and his or her perspective on the issues.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman left in place most of his committee chairs from last session.  However, there are a few interesting changes.  Senator Ron Justice of Chickasha moved from vice chair of Senate Appropriations to chairman of the Rules Committee.  The new Appropriations Vice-Chair is Senator Greg Treat of Oklahoma City. The vice-chairmanship of Appropriations is important because it puts Sen. Treat at the table in budget discussions.   In another significant change, Norman Senator Rob Standridge moves up from Vice Chair to Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.  Former Health and Human Services Chair Tulsa Senator Brian Crain moves to Vice-Chair of Judiciary.  Another important and coveted committee in Oklahoma is the Energy Committee. Last year it was chaired by Oklahoma City Senator Cliff Branan who termed out.  The new chair is Woodward Senator Bryce Marlatt.    

As anticipated, House Speaker Jeff Hickman changed most of the chairs and vice-chairs to begin his full term as Speaker.  He also changed the committee structure adding new committees and splitting subject matter into more than one committee.  As far as overall state government is concerned the most important chairmanship is Appropriations and Budget.  The Appropriations chairman is part of the leadership and participates in budget negotiations with the Senate leadership and the governor.  Bartlesville Representative Earl Sears reclaims his seat as Appropriations Chairman, a position he held two years ago.  He replaces Norman Representative Scott Martin who moved to chair of the Appropriations Education Subcommittee previously held by newly elected Speaker Pro Tempore Lee Denney

Another important chairmanship is Judiciary that will be chaired by Edmond Representative Randy Grau.  Grau replaces Representative Aaron Stiles who was defeated for re-election.  Another important committee nowadays is the Administrative Rules Committee.  Under recent laws the legislature approves or disapproves all permanent rules issued by state agencies.  Muskogee Representative George Faught, who is returning after an unsuccessful run for Congress two years ago, will take that chairmanship.  Similarly, Oklahoma City Representative Kevin Calvey has been appointed chair of the newly created Environmental Law Committee.   Calvey ran for Congress several years ago and is returning to the legislature after a stint in the military and lobbying.  

Learn More // Do More


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.