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Local News

February 9, 2014

Legislature’s first week proves challenging

DUNCAN — The Oklahoma Legislature’s first week was not business as usual.

On Wednesday, Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, stepped down as speaker of the House to pursue a seat in the U.S. Senate. In doing so, he created what Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, bluntly called “chaos.”

With Shannon’s resignation, Speaker Pro Tem Mike Jackson, R-Enid, became interim speaker until the representatives elect a new speaker on Monday.

Whoever is elected will remain as speaker until the November general election.

Johnson said Shannon’s decision to resign as speaker is one of several things that made for an interesting first week of session.

“It wasn’t business as usual,” Johnson said. “We had weather working against us, new technology working against us and a scramble for a new speaker working against us.”

Lawmakers this year will use a new voting technology. Instead of the traditional mechanical voting, they will use electronic tablets.

Johnson said this has been part of the challenge for the new session. Much of the first week was spent with the representatives learning how to use the new technology and working out bugs in the system. When Johnson went to vote, he initially wasn’t in the system as a voting member. As a result, he had to vote in a thumbs up/thumbs down method, with his votes being manually entered.

“It can be challenging at times,” Johnson said. “We’re dealing with that on top of the chaos of not having a speaker. And at the same time, you have people running for speaker of the House.”

Among those vying for the position is Jackson. Johnson said if Jackson is elected as speaker, it will leave the speaker pro tem position open.

“Then we’ll do it all over again,” Johnson said.

By comparison,  the first week was quiet in the Oklahoma Senate, where the  leadership positions will stay intact,  said Sen. Corey Brooks, R-Washington.   

Even so, events in the House had that attention of everyone in the Senate, Brooks noted.

“Who the next speaker is will effect everyone,” Brooks said. “We could get someone radically different.”

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