Sunday, May 22, 2011
Gov. Mary Fallin, helped by a strong supporting cast, fared well in her first stint dealing with the Legislature as the state's chief executive.
As lieutenant governor, she had watched from the sidelines for 12 years. She saw Republican Gov. Frank Keating struggle with a Democratic Legislature, then saw Democratic Gov. Brad Henry work with a growing number of Republicans to reboot the state economy, only to see it wither under the national recession.
After being elected to Congress from central Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District in 2006, Fallin won election last year on the theme of getting legislation passed to develop a better business climate for the state, attracting new jobs and helping existing businesses.
Many of the proposals she made in February, during her first State of the State address, were embraced and passed before lawmakers ended their work Friday.
“I'm actually very proud of all the things that we have accomplished this legislative session,” she said.
It helped that Fallin, a Republican, was pitching her ideas to a record number of GOP lawmakers. Also, House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, had the same philosophy.
Fallin, the state's first female governor, met frequently with Steele and Bingman during the session. For the most part, they agreed on most issues. A dust-up occurred on whether to accept a $54.6 million grant from the federal government to develop a system where Oklahomans could shop for health insurance. Fallin and Steele saw no problem with accepting the federal money but Bingman stopped the measure cold in the Senate.
Another disagreement occurred last week over whether the state should invest more money into the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. Fallin said not completing the project is an embarrassment and Steele said the idea would have gotten a hearing on the House floor. Bingman instead announced plans for an interim study on the museum and other bond projects.
Fallin's ideas to go to a two-year motor vehicle registration system for noncommercial vehicles and a $100 million bond issue to pay for information technology equipment fell on deaf ears.
But she scored with many of her proposals, such as getting changes in the civil justice system, overhauling the workers' compensation system, and eliminating the “trial de novo” system that made it hard to fire underperforming teachers.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT, The Oklahoman