How well the Legislature can function for the people depends on new and returning leaders (Capitol Update)

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.

Senator Greg Treat, R-OKC, the upcoming Senate President Pro Tempore, announced last week the appointment of Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, as the new Majority Floor Leader and Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, as the new Senate Appropriations Chair. Senator David, now running for her final term in the Senate, just finished an exhausting 2-year stint as Appropriations Chair. Prior to that she was Chair of the Health and Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee. Senator Thompson has served one full term and is running for a second Senate term. He was Chair of the Appropriations Finance Subcommittee – the revenue and tax subcommittee.

The Floor Leader makes the assignment of bills to the committees, controls the floor agenda, and manages the daily floor sessions. It’s an important and powerful job because whether a bill succeeds or fails often depends on the committee to which it is assigned and whether or when it gets placed on the floor agenda. So, subject to consultation with the Pro Tem, she holds life or death authority over every bill. This can put her in the line of fire, too. Sometimes it’s her job to kill a bad bill — which usually doesn’t make everyone happy. Sen. David has shown her willingness to take on tough causes and — win or lose — stick with it to the end.

The best spot in the Legislature to really “get” how state government works is chair of appropriations. In fact, in my opinion it’s the best job in the Legislature. That’s because the purpose of government is to protect the rights of and provide services to the citizens. To get the job done, the state must raise and spend money. So, if there’s a policy decision to be made, the appropriations chair is always going to be involved in the discussion — or he should be. He knows the details of where the money is coming from and where it goes. If you think you have good judgment and values and you ran for the Legislature to make a difference, why wouldn’t you want to be in the room when the big issues are being discussed, formulated, and refined? Sen. Thompson is a policy wonk in the best sense. He’ll make a great contribution to the state as appropriations chair.

How well the entire Legislature can function for the people will depend on how the new Senate leadership and the House leadership — Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, Majority Floor Leader John Echols, R-OKC, and Appropriations Chair Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, and their members can work together. It’s never easy. They are co-equals, so ultimately, they must find consensus to make things work. And they’ll be working with a new governor. Some new governors come into office thinking the world starts when they arrive. All answers, no questions. Let’s hope we don’t get one like that!


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.

One thought on “How well the Legislature can function for the people depends on new and returning leaders (Capitol Update)

  1. I guess you can spin it that way. I think the problems with our government start with our legislators. The unconstitutional bills that go through and the terrible legislation that we were stuck with to support the teachers come from the leadership. My grade for the last session F-. How well it will function DOES depend on who returns. My opinion is, none of them should return.

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