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House Speaker-Elect Kris Steele (R-Shawnee), is trying to be a “gets it” kind of guy. Yes, he’s definitely GOP, and all that goes with it; but, it at least seems he’s trying to demonstrate an ability to prioritize the next session of the Oklahoma legislature in favor of economic development–something you’d think all Oklahomans would favor.
In a recent interview with NewsOK Steele said:
A big part of my job is to help keep our caucus and this body focused on our agenda. With a four-month session, it’s important that we may remain focused on those agenda items. We’re going to be focused on doing all that we can to create an environment in our state that is conducive to job growth, job creation, job enhancement…We’ve got some good momentum, and we want to build on that and make sure we reach our potential in that regard. (1)
Steele is aware of the national press coverage Oklahoma receives for its stand on God, gays, guns and anti-immigration issues; and, he’s aware of the negative impact all of this has upon prospective businesses being recruited by the state. Unfortunately, there is one problem with Steele’s approach. It makes too much sense! And in Oklahoma, when something makes too much sense, somebody’s going to lay down on the railroad tracks to stop it. Enter state representative Randy Terrill (R-Moore).
Terrill is reportedly infuriated by Steele’s proposed agenda. Emboldened by his xenophobic successes with HB-1804 and bolstered by the newly passed fictional anti-sharia legislation, Terrill would prefer to the state use its precious legislative time to pursue a social agenda. Using his trademark “narrowness of the perceptual field,” Terrill is accusing Steele of “mocking the conservative agenda” and “trivializing” the GOP’s social agenda. According to Terrill:
It’s the job of the speaker to accurately reflect the views of the caucus, not to thwart them. It appears the speaker’s views are headed for a collision course with the conservative side of the caucus. My interest is in making sure that the conservative agenda has a place at the table and gets advanced. (2)
What exactly is Terrill’s agenda? Nothing that should really surprise anyone, just an even more draconian anti-immigration bill that, among other things, proposes to deny citizenship to those born born within the state to non-citizens and seize vehicles driven by illegal aliens. He proudly calls it an Arizona-Plus law. And then there’s gun legislation, vetoed by former Governor Brad Henry, that would allow folks to proudly carry and display their weapons in public places like Starbucks–stuff like that. You know, things that won’t actually do anything to solve the serious problems facing Oklahoma’s financial, educational, transportation and infrastructure needs.
I don’t envy Speaker Steele. In addition to his responsibilities as speaker and lawmaker, he will have the unique privilege of being defamed and vilified on regular basis by the politically ambitious members of his own party who claim he isn’t conservative enough–a sales tactic that works all too well in Oklahoma. Yes, Speaker-Elect Steele has his work cut out for him. His agenda, though problematic, might actually benefit the state by broadening our tax base and making Oklahoma an even more attractive place for businesses to locate. But, I’m betting Steele will spend most of his time placating the social agenda of the GOP’s uber-right and making the state a personal utopia for Randy Terrill.