As final preparations are being made for the upcoming legislative session slated to begin in early February, Democratic Leader Charlie Laster (D-Shawnee) has ensured experienced members of the Democratic caucus will play key roles in the committee work that is crucial to the legislative process.
State Sen. Charles Wyrick (D-Fairland) has been assigned to five committees. They are the committee on agriculture and rural development, transportation, a subcommittee on natural resources and regulatory services, rules and tourism and wildlife.
“As we hand over the reigns to the Republicans, it is important to have experienced leaders included in the committee process to help the Republicans govern effectively and in the best interest of all Oklahomans,” Laster said.
The Senator explained that after state Sen. Coffee, President Pro Tempore Elect, announced he was appointing five Democratic members to vice-chairmanships of Senate Committees, and also allocated the number of Democratic seats on all Senate committees, Laster made assignments of the remaining members of the Democratic caucus to ensure the members with the most experience and knowledge of a subject matter were named to the appropriate committees.
“Our senior members of the caucus have fought hard for the values that we as Oklahomans hold dear, and doing so has ensured Oklahoma is sitting in a strong place financially as other parts of the country are truly suffering through tough economic times,” Laster said. “We have left Sen. Coffee and his new Republican majority in great shape. Our rainy day fund is full, our economy is strong compared to the rest of the nation, our budget is balanced, and the Democratic caucus stands ready to continue making Oklahoma a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
Laster pointed to three key assignments that will be critical to the success of the upcoming session. He said appointing state Sen. Kenneth Corn, (D-Poteau) to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety, the committee which he formerly chaired, ensures an experienced voice and competent leader will remain an integral part of the legislative process.
“Senator Corn was a passionate advocate for the landmark bill that has virtually wiped away the presence of meth labs in our state and his leadership helped the Department of Corrections avoid a very dangerous crisis situation by fighting hard for fair wages for Oklahoma’s correctional officers,” Laster said.
The Democratic leader also said appointing Senator Tom Adelson (D-Tulsa) to
serve on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services ensures a voice, who once served as Governor Brad Henry’s Secretary of Health, will have a role in what could be a big year for health care and insurance reform in Oklahoma.
“Affordable health care and making insurance coverage count in Oklahoma will be a major issue this upcoming session and that is why Senator Adelson’s experience as
both Governor Henry’s former Secretary of Health and past chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will be so vital to this committee,” Laster said. “Senator Adelson was the architect for the All Kids Act, which
ensures most every Oklahoma child access to health insurance and he played a key role in shaping Insure Oklahoma, the legislation responsible for helping small businesses afford health insurance for their employees. He is a solid voice for health care and insurance reform.”
Finally, Laster said placing the former chairman of both the Senate Judiciary and
Energy Committees, Senator Richard Lerblance (D-Hartshorne) on the two committees respectively, will also ensure the placement of an experienced member with a thorough knowledge of the important issues likely to be seen in these committees in the upcoming session.
“Senator Lerblance is an experienced member of the Senate, who has spent countless hours working on energy issues, not only in his role as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, but also as a member of the executive committee on the Oklahoma Energy Council,” Laster said. “As the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a respected attorney in his district, Senator Lerblance also brings a wealth of knowledge regarding the judicial system in Oklahoma.”
Other Democratic committee assignments announced by Democratic Floor Leader Senator Laster include:
Senate Committee on Education: Senator Judy Eason McIntire, Senator Jay Paul Gumm, Senator Kenneth Corn, Senator John Sparks, Senator Mary Easley, Senator Richard Lerblance and Senator Susan Paddack.
Senate Committee on General Government: Senator Joe Sweeden, Senator Randy Bass, Senator Constance Johnson and Senator Jim Wilson. Senator Coffee previously appointed Roger Ballenger to Vice Chairman of this committee.