Governor Fallin may have a legislative honeymoon, OCU analyst believes

Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 10-Jan-2011

Governor Mary Fallin will likely enjoy a ‘honeymoon’ period as she tries to bring a “right-sizing” philosophy to Oklahoma government and presses the Legislature for a growth-friendly environment, according to an Oklahoma City University political science professor. 

Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party chairman is encouraging Fallin to follow the model of the late Henry Bellmon as she governs the state.

In an inauguration day interview with CapitolBeatOK, Prof. Richard Johnson said, “Of course the views of the governor and the majority in the Legislature are largely in lock step. They have been yearning for this day for 30 years, and it finally has happened.”

In terms of Fallin’s prospects for legislative success, Prof. Johnson cautioned: “The only fly in the ointment might be the extreme social conservatives and how they might react to the governor’s plans which are clearly focused on jobs and economic development.

“I believe the governor will largely get her way with the Legislature. She’ll enjoy a honeymoon period. As tough as things are the budget shortfall gives her operating room, an ability to press for her vision of ‘right-sizing’ government.”

Johnson, describing himself as a Democrat, drew on a well-known national Democrat to make a point: “The current environment will work well for her” in terms of initial efforts to trim government spending. He noted, “Rahm Emmanuel, the former White House chief of staff for President Obama, has said one of the rules of policy and politics is ‘don’t let a good disaster go to waste.’ Well, with a tough economic picture to deal with, I think the governor and her allies will work hard to make some changes in line with their beliefs.”

Johnson believes that other than pro-business policies and the “right-sizing” push, Oklahoma education policy may be significantly impacted in the years ahead. He commented, “I will be interested in seeing what [new Superintendent Janet] Barresi and the governor want to do with the issue of costs in education. You can make the case there is some waste, but clearly some smaller districts are having a hard time. Barresi has to some extent managed to sidestep the issue of consolidation of schools.”

Barresi has a window of opportunity, the analyst believes: “I have to say, even as a Democrat, that I was impressed with Barresi in the campaign. She has some interesting ideas in the charter school area. And, she is an interesting person.”

He continued, “The question is how to make these education reforms work in terms of the dollars that are out there right now.’

In related news, Oklahoma Democratic party state Chairman Todd Goodman sent the following statement to CapitolBeatOK this afternoon:

“We at the Oklahoma Democratic Party wish Gov. Fallin the best of luck as she takes office. Having the first woman governor is a milestone to be proud of. Oklahoma is a wonderful and diverse state that is facing a myriad of tough challenges.

“It is only by working together that we can move forward together, and we hope as governor, Fallin will consider what is best for all of Oklahoma’s families and follow in the footsteps of great statesmen, like Henry Bellmon, who made educating our children a top priority and worked across the aisle to help make Oklahoma the great state it is today.”