Only 5 of 149 lawmakers are completing a 12th year in office
For a variety of factors, the Oklahoma legislature has a massively high turnover rate. In the next month, our capitol will officially say 'good bye' to just 5 of the senior legislators. Perhaps this is a testament to the visionary efforts of Lloyd Noble II, the principle citizen activist who shepherded the nation's first term limits citizen initiative, back in 1990. This self-proclaimed 'arch conservative' told a C-span forum that he largely bankrolled the signature gathering and campaign messaging, as a way of reforming how Oklahoma does legislative business.
What Noble did, hastened the republican revolution of the next 20 years. Beginning in 2002, several lawmakers who'd spent decades in office, had to let go of political power. Characters like Gene Stipe of McAlester had a difficult time with that. He died in a prison medical facility when he illegally manipulated the election laws, in an attempt to both pick the new lawmakers, and steer lucrative public funds to corporations and associates.
The Oklahoma Senate will say good bye to Senator Gary Stanislawski, of Jenks. The House will say farewell to Harold Wright, Mike Sanders, Charles Ortega, and Lewis Moore.
But there are principled constitutional arguments on the other side of the debate. We currently have a House membership which is ab0out 50% freshmen.
In recent years the governor has negotiated with legislative leaders to bring more direct oversight to the executive office of the governor. That was met with resistance from the Democrats, who see it as a further erosion of their influence. the Administrative state is largely staffed by people with a left-leaning ideology. They are the ones who have spearheaded the effort to expand medicaid and other social services. The former Commissioner of Mental Health, Terry White; was an open advocate for ObamaCare.
One critical observer mentioned what others have concurred... namely that many lawmakers spend their last few years in elective office as a hunt for some golden hammock opportunity in one of many common destinations. It's often either in appointed office at an agency, or trust, or with a corporation which does business with the state. That can lead to behavior which borders on bribery, while still holding influential roles in the legislature. Others naturally benefit in private sector opportunities because of the networking connections and showing exemplary public leadership roles. That's a good thing, right?
So, congratulations to Lloyd Noble II for setting a national standard which 13 other states have followed. But it's only a start towards a vision for that illusive citizen legislature which only focuses on the very best interests of the people whom they represent. Other states (like Illinois, for instance) have speakers in office for about half a century. And Illinois has a political legacy to show for it.
We wrote about Mr. Noble's work in a 2015 article, here.