Lawmakers filling committee chairs for upcoming session (Capitol Update)

With interim studies, elections, and Thanksgiving now in the past, organizing for the next legislative session will get underway in earnest. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, have both been re-elected to their posts, so you can expect considerable stability in leadership and committee chairmanships in both bodies. Technically all committee chairmanships are up for appointment, but few are likely to change except where vacancies exist. In leadership positions, House Speaker Pro Tempore Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, termed out, and Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa has been elected by the Republican Caucus as the new Speaker Pro Tempore, moving up from Majority Whip.

Probably the most sought after chairmanship openings in the House will be the Energy and Natural Resources Committee vacated by O’Donnell and the Insurance Committee vacated when Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Edmond, termed out. Although neither would be considered broad policy making committees, they handle legislation involving powerful interests with statewide reach. Also open are the Utilities Committee, the Rules Committee, and the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on General Government.

From a public policy standpoint, the Senate has three important committee chairmanships open. The Education Committee was chaired the past two years by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, who termed out. A likely replacement could be Sen. Dwayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, a long-time teacher and school administrator who previously served as Appropriations Education Subcommittee Chairman. Whether Sen. Pemberton is appointed Education Committee Chairman may depend on whether he would rather work with education policy issues or appropriations.

The chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee will be vacated by Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, who was elected to the U.S. Congress. The committee, which handles revenue and tax matters as well as other fiscal issues affecting both state government and business, is an important committee for obvious reasons. It will likely be sought after by several members.

Finally, given the public interest in criminal justice and law enforcement reform, the Public Safety Committee chairmanship will be an important and perhaps challenging assignment in the upcoming session. The opening was created when the chairman for the past few sessions, Sen. Wayne Shaw, R, Grove was defeated for re-election. A possible replacement could be first-term Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, a former Director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. However, there may be some senior members who will request the chairmanship.


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.

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