Editor’s Notebook: A Chamber hire, a legal hearing, a pension focus

Gwendolyn Caldwell is joining the State Chamber of Oklahoma and will run its office of government affairs. She comes to the statewide group from the Tulsa Metro Chamber, where she was a vice president.

Fred Morgan, president of the State Chamber, pointed to Caldwell’s past experience lobbying at the state Capitol for the Tulsa chamber, saying, “our mission … is to give the Oklahoma business community a voice at the state Capitol, and Gwendolyn will help us continue that goal.” He said her “unmatched legislative relationships” will “assure consideration of pro-growth policies.” 

She ran the Chamber’s “OneVoice” process, involving 38 regional partners and local chambers, and directed the OklahomaBiz PAC and TulsaBiz PAC.

Previously, she was legislative director at the state Senate, and an advisor to Glenn Coffee when he served as President Pro Temp. 

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Caldwell said, “I have enjoyed bringing Tulsa issues to the state Legislature and this new opportunity will give me a chance to increase Tulsa’s involvement with The State Chamber. 

“I look forward to directing our team of issue experts as we discover and bring forward additional ways to ensure Oklahoma’s economic competitiveness both now and long into our state’s future.”

Caldwell assumes her new post mid-August. 

* * *

State Supreme court referee Greg Albert has directed counsel for Gov. Mary Fallin and Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax, as responding parties to Sen. Jim Wilson’s redistricting lawsuit, to submit a written statement of their legal position relating to possible scheduling issues in the litigation.

The statement is due this Friday, July 22. Longtime Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader appeared for the state officials. Preliminary issues in the lawsuit, intended to overturn the Senate reapportionment plan passed this spring, will be presented to the Supreme Court next week. 

Wilson and his lawyer, Mark Hammons of Oklahoma City, are pressing for a scheduling conference and expedited hearing process, with as many as 20 witnesses per side.

* * * 

Speaker of the House Kris Steele yesterday (Monday, July 18) named members to the bipartisan House oversight committee on pensions. The body will guide the cluster of House interim studies on pension policy. 

As announcement of the panel’s composition was made here in Oklahoma City, state Rep. Randy McDaniel, an Oklahoma City Republican, was a speaker at the Southern Legislative Conference, where he described the Sooner State’s wave of pension reforms passed this spring. 

Steele attended the Memphis meeting, and said, “legislators from other states have officially taken notice that we are doing something right in improving our pension system in Oklahoma.” Changes in state pension provisions are projected to save more than $6 billion over the next three decades, dramatically improving the Sooner State’s management of unfunded liabilities.

McDaniel, chairman of the oversight committee, is running four interim studies:

* (11-040) “Pension Investment Management Review”

* (11-041) “Plan Design Choices for State Retirement Systems”

* (11-042) “Pension Funding Issues and Sustainability:

* (11-043) “Best Practices of Pension Plans” 

McDaniel has worked in the financial services industry for nearly two decades. He commented, “While the reforms accomplished last session were consequential, it is clear we still face considerable challenges. The large unfunded liability, workforce demographics, and financial constraints exemplify the need for future vigilance and reform. 

“Nonetheless, based on the achievements of the past session, I am confident we can continue working together to improve the financial condition of the pension system.”

Joining McDaniel on the oversight committee are: 

•                Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Tulsa

•                Rep. Corey Holland, R-Marlow

•                Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville

•                Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa

•                Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle

•                Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell

•                Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa

•                Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs

•                Rep. R.C. Pruett, D-Antlers

•                Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester

•                Rep. Seneca Scott, D-Tulsa