Proposals from two House Republicans could shake things up

OKLAHOMA CITY – Two proposals under consideration when the state Legislature reconvenes next month could shake things up at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.

A constitutional amendment filed by state Rep. Paul Wesselhöft, R-Moore, would ask voters whether or not they want to replace current 12-year term limits with 16-year term limits. Wesselhöft said House Joint Resolution 1007 would give Oklahomans a chance to cultivate more experience in their state legislators.

“Each time we term out we lose good people with a great deal of knowledge and leadership,” said Wesselhöft. “This empowers the lobbyist and the directors of agencies, which gives them too much influence over government. This bill will not apply to any of the representatives voting on it. This is for future legislators only.”

Term limits in their present form were approved by voters in 1990.

Wesselhoft, newly appointed as chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, said he expects numerous election reform bills to be heard in committee this year.

“There is a lot of support for reform,” he said.

Constitutional amendments are not subject to the governor’s veto, but must be passed by both houses of the Legislature before going to a vote of the people. 

The bill filing deadline for the 2015 session was Thursday, Jan. 22. Regular session reconvenes on Feb. 2.
Another significant constitutional proposal has been re-submitted by state Rep. Randy Grau, $-Edmond. His measure would, if approved by lawmakers and then voters, would significantly change the legislative process.

House Joint Resolution 1001 would restrict state lawmakers from taking up policy issues and constitutional amendments in even-numbered years, unless the legislation received a three-fourths vote.

“There is a lot of momentum right now for a better budget process,” said Grau, R-Oklahoma City. “The best way to improve that process is to cut down the number of distractions, at least for one year out of every two. In the years in which the budget was the exclusive goal, your state lawmakers will have four months, as opposed to two weeks, to engage in a meaningful review of government needs and a thorough discussion on funding priorities.”

Allowing for an exemption with broad support provides the flexibility needed to address emergency policy issues, Grau said.

“Another benefit of the change would be a reduction in the number of new laws passed,” Grau said. “Considering policy changes every other year will help ensure that legislators focus on what is most important to Oklahomans.”

In the 2014 gubernatorial election, Gov. Mary Fallin and former state Rep. Joe Dorman, both legislative veterans, said the idea is worth a serious look

On the other hand, state Treasurer Ken Miller thinks such procedure would make recurring inaccuracies in state budget predictions or projections even more problematic.

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.