House Republican Caucus names Kris Steele 'Speaker-elect'
Share this Article: Twitter Facebook Republish Print
YouTube Video

Published: 04-Nov-2010

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 04-Nov-2010

Saying he was proud to lead a “talented group” and that he was looking forward to tackling tough problems facing Oklahoma, state Rep. Kris Steele today (Thursday, November 4) became House Speaker-elect.

The Shawnee Republican participated in a three-hour session with members of the Republican caucus, which now has 70 members. Republicans gained eight seats in Tuesday’s election, to secure unprecedented dominance of the House of Representatives.

In a prepared statement, Steele said, “I am honored and humbled by the support of my colleagues. As we face the significant challenges of the coming session, I am committed to a process that utilizes the talents of all 101 members of this chamber to develop and advance pro-growth, conservative policies that will move Oklahoma forward.”

Talking to reporters after the closed-door caucus session, Steele identified the following priorities: jobs growth and an improved economy; education reform and quality education; redistricting “in the right way”; streamlined delivery of state services “in the most effective way”; corrections reform; and pension/retirement system reform.

Steele said overarching all debates and discussions will be the continuing budget crunch, as state government faces a difference of $500 million between existing programs and projected tax revenues.

Discussing state services, Steele said he was concerned to protect Oklahoma’s health care programs from any potential negative effects in the new federal law. He believes the incentives-based approach to expanded coverage which Oklahoma has begun is better than the punitive aspects now in federal law.

On pension issues, Steele said he had met with outgoing Treasurer Scott Meacham and solicited his ideas on how to address what some have called a crisis.

Steele told reporters he was “fortunate to have been mentored by Speaker Chris Benge.” He admires and hoped to emulate Benge’s strength as “a good listener, and I want to work that into my style as Speaker.”

The House Republicans chose two other top leadership positions.  Members state Rep. Jeff Hickman of Dacoma as Speaker Pro Tempore-elect and state Rep. Weldon Watson of Tulsa as Caucus Chairman.

Republicans also adopted caucus rules. Steele told reporters that outgoing state Rep. John Wright of Broken Arrow, in keeping with tradition, presided over the meeting without voting on any matters. Steele said he appreciated Wright’s service.

Over the next several weeks, Steele said he plans to announce additional appointed leadership positions.

CapitolBeatOK repeated words of praise for Steele from state Rep. Al McAffrey, an Oklahoma City Democrat who said he anticipates better treatment this session for members of the minority party.

Concerning relations with Democrats, Steele said he believes “every member brings unique gifts, talents and skills to the job. For Oklahoma to reach its potential, we must work together.” He pledged to try to “recognize those gifts and benefit from the strengths of all members of the House. I’m convinced that the rules are designed to protect the minority. We need to take advantage of that and assure that everyone has something to bring to the table.”

Steele continued, “The challenges we face are too significant and too important. We don’t need partisan bickering.” Steel expressed hopes the coming session will provide opportunities “to improve the budget process and involve all our members.”

On Tuesday, November 16 at 1:30 p.m., newly-elected members of the entire House will be sworn in at the Capitol. On January 4, the full House will convene for an organizational day, and formally elect House leadership.

sign up for email updates

Steal Our Stuff