New state legislators are a diverse group
by MIKE W. RAY
House Media Division Director
Oklahoma City- The 39 new legislators in the Oklahoma House of Representatives are an eclectic group that includes a former member of the New Hampshire legislature, a doctor and two veterinarians, an ex-prosecutor, and a couple of ministers, one of whom played on OU's legendary national championship football teams in the Bud Wilkinson era.
The group includes a grocer, a sign maker, a strawberry grower, half a dozen lawyers, four real estate agents, a former undersheriff, and 10 educators, including a young man who is trilingual and a woman who once qualified for food stamps but now teaches college-level courses and travels throughout the country delivering motivational speeches.
Eight of the new lawmakers previously worked for the Legislature or elsewhere in state government, and 16 others have political experience in federal, county or local political arenas. Two of the lawmakers are sons, and one is a nephew, of current or former legislators.
The new legislators represent a variety of age groups. Seven are in the 20's (the two youngest are 24), seven are in their 30's, at least four are in their 40's, at least eight are in their 50's and at least five are in their 60's.
The 39 new faces in the state House of Representatives are the most in 40 years. The turnover, attributed largely to constitutional term limits, is the greatest experienced in the House since 1965; that year, 49 new Representatives were elected after court-ordered reapportionment in response to the “one man, one vote” principle the U.S. Supreme Court established in its landmark “Baker v. Carr” case in 1962.
Just over half of the state House members will have two years or less of legislative experience when the 50th Oklahoma Legislature convenes next year. The 39 first-term “freshmen” legislators, along with the 12 second-term “sophomores,” comprise 51 of the 101 House members.
The oath of office was administered Tuesday to most of the newly elected House members, in a ceremony at noon in the House Chamber in the State Capitol. At least five Representatives were sworn in earlier. The two-year terms of office for all of the Representatives began at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17.
The House and the Senate both will convene at noon Jan. 4, 2005, for a one-day organizational meeting. During that session the full House will elect a new Speaker and a Speaker Pro Tempore. Republicans, who now outnumber Democrats, 57-44, have nominated Rep. Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, to be the next Speaker; two other Republicans, Rep. Susan Winchester of Chickasha and Rep. Mark Liotta of Tulsa, are competing for Speaker Pro Tempore.
Republicans will be in control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 84 years. The only other time the GOP dominated the House was in 1921-22, for one term.
The Legislature will reconvene at noon Feb. 7, 2005, to start its four-month First Regular Session and to hear the annual “State of the State Address” from the Governor.
The new state Representatives number 23 Republicans and 16 Democrats.
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