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Term limits leave 30 seats up for grabs in Legislature
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Term limits leave 30 seats up for grabs in Legislature

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Legislature will see significant turnover after the next session.

Term limits mean 12 Democrats and 18 Republicans will not be able to seek re-election.

In addition, a handful of other lawmakers not facing term limits have said they will not seek another term. They include Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, and Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater.

The limitation means lawmakers can serve only 12 years combined in the House and Senate, unless they were elected during a special election to fill a vacancy. Voters overwhelmingly adopted a state question in 1990 that slapped term limits on lawmakers. It took effect in 1992, but did not affect previous years of service.

The 101-member House has 19 members subject to the limitation in 2016, while it applies to 11 members in the 48-member Senate.

Neither House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, nor Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, will be returning after 2016 due to term limits.

“This is the second round of term limits,” said State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, who served as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. “Those people that got elected right after the initial term limits are now termed out.”

One of them is Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley, R-Edmond. He said unlike some of the newer members, he remembers what it was like to serve in the minority.

While the state will be losing a lot of institutional knowledge, it also provides the opportunity for new ideas, Jolley said.

Longtime political consultant Fount Holland, partner and founder of Republican firm AH Strategies, believes there will be a significant shift in the Legislature, something that will affect policies passed in the future.

The next election will determine if the Legislature is more pro-business or more tea-party oriented, he said.

Both parties are predicting they will pick up seats.

Republicans control the House by a margin of 71-30 and the Senate by 39-8, with one vacancy due to the resignation of Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso following a criminal investigation.

Holland doesn’t think Democrats will pick up any seats this cycle, but could in 2018.

“I think Republicans will take a few seats in the House and the Senate,” Holland said. “That would be my prediction. I think to me, the storyline narrative of the next election is what kind of Republicans are elected.”

The Republican electorate is becoming more divided on state issues, Holland said.

Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, D-Norman, believes Democrats will hold the seats they have in the upper chamber. If Democrats do lose a seat, that will be offset by flipping other seats, he said.

“It is numbers,” Sparks said. “They are going to have more of their members who are term-limited. You will have open seats, and when you have open seats, there is the opportunity to flip a seat.”

Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465

barbara.hoberock@tulsaworld.com

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