Former Legislative Leaders Talk Oklahoma Politics

Aug 26, 2013

The Oklahoma political landscape has undergone a major shift to the Republican side of the scale in the last 15 years.

Kris Steele and Andrew Rice

With super GOP majorities in the state House and Senate, and with every statewide elective office in Republican hands, the Democrats have become a definite minority party.

The meaning of this shift is the core of a public conversation KGOU news director Kurt Gwartney recently had with former House Speaker Kris Steele and former Senate minority leader Andrew Rice.

The two leaders spoke before a small audience about their views on Oklahoma’s political past, present and future.

After leaving the state Legislature, both Steele and Rice now lead non-profit organizations serving some of the state’s least privileged residents.

“I think that our system of government is a good system of government, is the best system of government, but we ought to be able to have intelligent, civil discussions about what is right, and what is best, and what is wrong, and what is good when it comes to the people of Oklahoma and not get caught up in party ideology,” said Steele.

Rice said term limits are partly to blame for an increased dependence on lobbyists and legislative staff when dealing with complex, long term issues like water rights.

“I think that you are taking people who are learning a lot about issues, usually legislators have certain subject areas they get more interested in by what committees they’re on or chair,” Rice said. “You’re building up a knowledge base… and then you’re forcing them into retirement.”