Brian Bingman, Mike Schulz designated Senate leaders
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Published: 09-Nov-2010
By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 09-Nov-2010

Republicans in the Oklahoma state Senate met in caucus today (Tuesday, November 9), electing State Sen. Brian Bingman of Sapulpa President Pro Tempore-designate. While several leadership decisions were not finalized, Mike Schulz of Altus was chosen as floor leader.

Republicans hold a 2-1 majority in the upper chamber, reaching an unprecedented degree of control in only the second legislative cycle with Republicans in charge of both legislative bodies.

In an interview with reporters after the caucus meeting, Sen. Bingman said, “We look forward to the challenge. We’re going to have a jobs-driven agenda. It’s jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what we’re focused on.”

Pressed for details on how that jobs agenda will be advanced, Bingman said, “A lot of this is driven by the Republican campaigns. You’ll see more details as we develop the legislation. Certainly I expect tort reform and workers comp reforms to be part of the agenda for job creation. We know Oklahoma needs to mirror the reforms in certain surrounding states like Texas.”

In response to questions about legal policy reforms and jobs creation, Bingman said, “The business community has told us that the costs they are paying are too great. We have to bring those costs own so they can go out and hire more people, create more jobs for the people of Oklahoma.” In businesses and in medical fields, he said, the states needs further reform. Otherwise, he said, “our businesses will dart to places like Texas where there is a great pro-business climate.”

Bingman said, “Of course the budget will be front and center. Developing a budget for next year is going to be the greatest challenge we face. The Rainy Day fund is almost gone exhausted, and there’s no federal stimulus money. We are required to balance the budget and the shortfall appears to be about $500 million. That will define a lot of this session.”

Bingman declined to name specific budget cuts, saying, “It’s just too early to be specific about that. I’d just ask you to give us a little bit of time to meet as a caucus and develop our ideas. We’ll bring them forward in time, new ideas for the challenges we face.”

Concerning possible reductions in force within state government, Bingman noted his background in the private sector, and commented, “There is a shortfall in the budget. In the private sector where I come from, when there is a loss of revenue or income, you have to make cuts and you have to trim your expenses. If that’s what we have to do in government, we will do it. We will be looking at technology and efficiency.”

CapitolBeatOK asked about tax credits and exemptions designed to “incentivize” business, and budget challenges that are leading to critical scrutiny of the same, Bingman said, “Our job as legislators is to look at each of these credits and exemptions and make sure it is, or they are, achieving what was intended. I’m open-minded on how to approach those issues to give ability for incentives to work, but to make sure they are operating the way it was originally intended.”

For near-term work, he said, “We have many leadership positions to fill, chairmanships and sub-committee chairmanships. We have to look at creative ways to deliver state services.”

He said because he was just chosen by the enlarged GOP caucus, “I don’t have the luxury of working with the previous pro temp. We plan to take advantage of our membership and the expertise among our members. There are 31 other members of the Republican caucus, individuals who are highly qualified.”

CapitolBeatOK asked about the role of Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City, and other Democrats in the 16-member minority caucus.

Bingman replied, “I will welcome the opportunity to sit down with Senator Andrew Rice and members of his caucus. We will certainly have dialogue. Whether they are a Republican or a Democrat, we intend to work together to move Oklahoma forward. There is talent there with the Democrats and certainly with Senator Rice.”

In a prepared statement, Bingman said, “I'm ready for the challenge.” An assistant majority floor leader in the past Senate, he was reelected without opposition this year.

The new Senate includes nine new Republicans.  Six seats switched to Republicans, including Senate District 4 (Mark Allen), Senate District 6 (Josh Brecheen), District 10 (Eddie Fields), District 14 (Frank Simpson), District 18 (Kim David), and District 44 (Ralph Shortey).

Three new freshman Senators holding seats for the GOP, and their district numbers, are Rob Johnson (22), David Holt (30), and Rick Brinkley (34). They secured their seats in primaries and did not face opposition in the general election.

Senators will be sworn in next Tuesday (November 16).  The upper chamber will Senate will formally organize on Tuesday, January 4. Rules for the 2011 session will be passed, and the new Pro Tem will be officially elected.

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