Thursday, April 10, 2008

Democrats stage walkout - Oklahoman

Democrats stage brief walkout in protest, propose changes

By Michael McNutt
Capitol Bureau
House Democrats staged a brief walkout today from chamber to protest how Republican-led committees have been treating Oklahomans who have tried to speak before them the past couple weeks.

The walkout lasted about two minutes. Democrats, however, later in the morning left the chamber again for a caucus meeting. They submitted several proposals to House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. One suggestion was to require committee chairmen to be consistent in allowing members of the public and all committee members an opportunity to speak.

Democratic leader Danny Morgan said Benge said he would review the suggestions and make a decision Monday whether to submit them to the full House for a vote to amend House rules.

After Democrats returned from their caucus meeting, business was conducted with no further interruptions. The House adjourned for the week before noon. Morgan said House Democrats are angry over the refusal by Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, to let supporters of a measure that would require insurance companies to cover costs associated with autism speak before his committee.

More than 30 supporters showed up the past two weeks to speak to Peterson's committee, but Peterson through procedural moves killed the measure and denied supporters to speak.

Last week Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, was denied permission to speak before a House committee that took up a bill that would make English the official language of the state. The chairman of that committee, Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City, restricted comments to House members. The measure passed out of committee and is awaiting action on the House floor.

Morgan, D-Prague, said House Democrats, who are outnumbered 57-44, also are upset over how some amendments are attached to bills or how some bills are gutted and replaced with language dealing with another issue. Amendments and committee substitutes to bills are supposed to have the same subject as the bill. Committee chairmen make the decisions on whether amendments and committee substitutes are appropriate, Morgan said. Their decisions cannot be challenged on the House floor, Morgan said.

No comments: