Last week, Rep. T.W. Shannon, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced the House committee structure for the next legislative session. This event has been greatly anticipated by members of the Legislature. Shannon campaigned for the Speaker position on the platform of truly allowing the makeup of the House membership to be represented in positions of leadership. His announcement of the committee structure and the chairpersons for the committees did not disappoint.
Shannon made the decision to deploy the talents of representatives regardless of whether or not they supported him in the Speaker’s election. This hasn’t been the case in the past, as the makeup of the leadership positions heavily favored the “team” of the Speaker’s campaign for election by the majority caucus.
The new merits-based model allowed Shannon to create a series of new committees that will reflect the priorities of the House of Representatives. Shannon has publicly stated that we are the House of the people of Oklahoma and as such we must hold state bureaucracies to account.
Perhaps the most demonstrative feature of this platform is the creation of an enhanced Appropriations and Budget Committee infrastructure with an entire subcommittee dedicated to the oversight of state agencies that do not receive appropriations from the Legislature.
The Legislature only appropriates about $6.5 billion of the nearly $17 billion spent by state government. For years, direct legislation purview of the other $10.5 billion didn’t exist. The new committee, under the leadership of State Rep. Sally Kern, will have oversight of the about $1 billion or so in fees that is generated by non-appropriated agencies and the about $8 billion that comes from the federal government and passes through the state agencies. This is a huge step toward restoring legislative authority over the federal mandates that are attached to the funding and the agencies that all too often do the federal government’s bidding at the expense of Oklahoman liberties and freedoms.
It doesn’t stop there.
Shannon also created a States’ Rights Committee to be chaired by Edmond-area State Rep. Lewis Moore. Moore’s committee will have the responsibility of advancing measures to re-assert Oklahoma sovereignty, as well as to reject efforts to make the state more dependent on the federal government. Moore has been a great proponent of states’ rights and keeping federal mandates at bay. He is an excellent choice to chair this new committee.
As in previous years, any number of legislative initiatives likely will be introduced to bring Oklahoma into compliance with various new federal mandates. Moore’s committee could serve as a line of defense against these efforts. Next week, I intend to write about one of these dangerous new mandates, known as the Pipeline Safety Act, which could infringe on your property rights and cost local governments a significant amount of your taxpayer dollars.
By creating this innovative model of legislative oversight, Shannon has taken a giant step toward restoring the oversight of the peoples’ representatives over state bureaucracies and federal mandates. Shannon has done his part; now it is our challenge as legislators to exercise these new tools and ensure they are used to shrink the size of government.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.