House party: Tuesday’s organizational day for the Legislature produced some interesting developments in the House, including the formal election of Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, as speaker pro tem, the No. 2 post in House leadership.
The choice of O’Donnell, a close ally of Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, was expected.
More surprising was the replacement of six-term Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, as chairman of the Public Health Committee.
Roberts, who has been friendly to anti-vaccination interests, was moved to leadership of the Appropriations and Budget sub-committee that oversees non-appropriated agencies like the Insurance Department and the Grand River Dam Authority.
In Roberts’ place was installed Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, an advance practice nurse and strong vaccination advocate.
And, perhaps in a sign that Oklahoma’s Republican legislators have acknowledged the reality of a Democratic national administration, the House reestablished the States’ Rights Committee.
The committee originated during the Obama administration and generated a good deal of the legislation dealing with the Affordable Care Act, environmental regulation and guns.
The committee disappeared during the Trump administration, but is back again.
School choice: Expanded use of state money on private schools is expected to again by on the Legislature’s agenda when this year’s session begins Feb. 1.
Several bills have already been filed, including two (SB 221 and 222) by Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, that would allow state “scholarships” to private schools for students whose parents believe are being bullied or whose health is at risk at public schools.
State v. local: Legislators will also again struggle over how much “local control” they want local governments to have.
Over the past decade, the Legislature has chipped away at municipal autonomy with laws restricting towns’ and cities’ ability to set such things as minimum wages and oil and gas drilling regulations.
Bills filed so far this year would limit their ability to require home-based businesses to meet zoning and building codes and enact mask ordinances.
Headed the other way are a few urban legislators who want cities to have more leeway tracking down absent landlords whose properties are dilapidated or being used for criminal activity.
Let us pray: New state Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, introduced legislation to prevent state or local governments from closing houses of worship because of the pandemic.
Bottom lines: State Senators Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, and Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, were chosen chairmen of their respective Senate caucuses. ... Gov. Kevin Stitt nominated Bartlesville attorney and rancher Jess Kane to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission. ... State Senators J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, and Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, filed legislation to name a section of State Highway 20 for Oklahoma Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Marshall Roberts, who was killed in action in Iraq last March.