Senate announces committee chairs for upcoming session (Capitol Update)

With the top leadership remaining the same and relatively few new members in both legislative chambers, one might expect the committee chairs to mostly remain the same. However, when President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, announced his appointments last week there was quite a bit of movement. Changes in committee chairs can occur because of openings created by retirements from the senate, requested changes by chairs who prefer a different committee, the politics of the recent pro tempore race, and the ripple effect of the other changes. Looking at the movement, it would be a good guess that all four reasons were at play.

That said, five important committees remained in the hands of the same chairmen who served last session: Appropriations, Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah; Education, Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond; Finance, Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa; Health and Human Services, Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City; and Retirement and Insurance, Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton. The remaining committees changed chairmen.

Sen. Pugh will also replace Sen. Dwayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, a former school administrator, to become chair of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Also, Sen. Rosino will replace Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, who was term limited, as chair of the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. As chairs of both the substantive legislation committees and the appropriations subcommittees, Pugh and Rosino will have extraordinary influence in the two largest areas of state government expenditures.

Two other important changes in committee chairs are Sen. Brent Howard, R-Altus, resuming chairing the Judiciary Committee, which he lost last year in a dispute with Sen. Treat over his “no” vote on Treat’s education voucher bill. He will also chair the appropriations subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary giving him a strong voice in judicial, law enforcement and corrections matters. Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, who took over Judiciary last year from Howard, now moves to chair the Rules Committee, which is a leadership committee reviewing policy bills of importance to the leadership.

In another strong dual role, Sen. John Haste, R-Tulsa, will now chair the Aeronautics and Transportation Committee as well as retaining his Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee chair from last session, which will make him an important player on transportation issues. Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, who ran against Sen. Treat for President Pro Tempore, chaired the Transportation Committee last session. Sen. Haste also serves as vice chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.

Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Waurika, is the new chair of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee replacing Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, who successfully ran for Senate Republican Whip. Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, moved up from vice chair to chair of the Business and Commerce Committee replacing Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, who did not run for re-election. Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, moved from the Public Safety committee to chair the coveted Energy and Telecommunications Committee, always an important committee in an energy state like Oklahoma. Sen. Darcey Jech, R-Kingfisher, moved from Rules to chair to replace Paxton at Public Safety.


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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