Newly-elected Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall designates members to investigate wrongful termination settlement, Rep. Kirby seated
Published: January 4th, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House Speaker Charles A. McCall. R-Atoka, on Tuesday announced membership of the House Rules Committee, the bipartisan standing House committee he has authorized to begin investigating the wrongful termination settlement agreement paid to a former employee in November out of House funds.
The committee members are: Republican state Representatives Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, Kevin West, of Moore, Elise Hall of Oklahoma City, Jon Echols of Oklahoma City, Terry O’Donnell of Tulsa, and Weldon Watson of Tulsa, as well as Democratic state Reps. Steve Kouplen of Beggs, David Perryman, of Chickasha and Meloyde Blancett of Tulsa.
In a press release from his staff, McCall said the committee will begin meeting in January and will have “special authority” to investigate that settlement, the allegations that led to the settlement and the House process for dealing with allegations of sexual harassment. In addition, the committee will review the authority of the House to use operational funds to settle claims and will also review any and all prior sexual harassment allegations against current House members.
While news of the rules committee appointments a party-line vote to seat Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, dominated news from the seat of Oklahoma government on Tuesday, the election of McCall to the lower chamber’s top job is the most significant procedural development of the New Year, thus far.
Tuesday marked the start of the 56th Legislature in state history. While January is normally a time for methodical work preparatory to the session’s commencement in February, work for the elected officials this year will begin immediately. Today (Wednesday, January 4) a five-day series of all-member hearings begins, focused on the five largest tax-consuming agencies in government: K-12 Education, Transporation Higher Education, Human Services and the Health Care Authority.
Organizational Day is a Constitutionally mandated day for the Legislature to convene and certify the election results from November, formally seat newly elected members and elect House leadership.
McCall said he intends for his term to be marked by conservative policies, accountability, a willingness to listen to every member of the House and a leadership style that encourages input and the contribution of innovative ideas.
“Our focus needs to be primarily on creating an environment that encourages the creation and expansion of small businesses, relocation of large businesses to our state and reduction in regulations that prohibit economic growth,” said Speaker McCall. “When state revenues are down, it is because the personal incomes of our citizens are down. All 101 members of the House need to devote our attention toward making Oklahomans prosperous again.”
McCall is only the eighth Republican speaker in state history, and the seventh consecutive since voters gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives in 2004. He is the first Speaker of the House from Atoka.
The full body also elected state Rep. Harold Wright to serve as Speaker Pro-Tempore of the House. Wright is now the highest-ranking lawmaker from Weatherford to ever serve in the Legislature.
“We have a strong leadership team in the House of Representatives, and I am very confident in our ability to not only solve the problems we are facing but also to develop ideas that move Oklahoma forward,” said Wright, R-Weatherford. “I am excited about working with Speaker McCall and House Republicans during the next two years. There is real opportunity to advance policies that actually improve people’s lives.”
The House also certified the election results from November 8, 2016 and seated all 101 members of the House. Every House member must run for re-election every two years. This year, 32 new members and 69 incumbents were elected to the House.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, congratulated the new speaker, saying, “Speaker McCall is an honorable and accomplished man whom I am proud to call a friend. I look forward to working closely with him over the course of the next two years.”
Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.