Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Senate rule changes due vote

The proposal, to be voted on today, would give control of all committee assignments to Republicans.

By MICK HINTON World Capitol Bureau
Published: 1/6/2009

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Senate's new president pro tem, Glenn Coffee, is proposing Senate rules to be considered Tuesday that would give control of all committee assignments to Republicans.

The proposed rules also contain a requirement that amendments calling for expansion of insurance coverage can be ruled out of order by a committee chairman and not heard by the committee unless they contain a fiscal-impact statement.

This could affect whether the Legislature will be compelled to hear a bill referred to as "Nick's Law," which concerns mandated insurance coverage of autism.

Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, said Monday that the proposed rule changes are among the reforms he announced during the fall election campaign, when he pledged to promote lawsuit, health-care and criminal-justice reform.

"This isn't about personalities; we are trying to bring about reforms," Coffee said.

A power play erupted in December when Sen. Charles Laster, D-Shawnee, leader of the minority Democrats, announced committee assignments. Coffee overruled Laster and changed some of the assignments that same day.

Laster claimed that by tradition, the minority party had always been allowed to make its own assignments.

The proposed rules state that only the president pro tem would make committee assignments.

For the first time in history, both houses of the Legislature are under Republican control.

Senate rule changes must be approved by a majority.

The Senate has 26 Republicans
and 22 Democrats.

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