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Oklahoma House GOP Elects Leadership; First Legislation Filed For 2017

Nov 16, 2016

Oklahoma's House Republicans picked their leadership for the next legislative session Tuesday, and formally elected state Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, as the next House Speaker.

State Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, in early May was tapped by his Republican colleagues to be their next leader.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

At the end of the 2016 session in May the caucus elected McCall as Speaker-designate, but yesterday allowed the 25 new GOP House members to weigh in on the leadership.

McCall ran for the position unopposed, and he'll be certified as Speaker by the 75-26 Republican majority on January 3 when the full body convenes for an Organizational Day.

As StateImpact Oklahoma has reported, the Atoka Republican has roots in southeastern Oklahoma water issues.

“The area that I represent — water plays a tremendous role in our largest industries, agriculture and tourism,” McCall says.

His district also includes the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. The lake and the aquifer are at the epicenter of two of the state’s biggest water fights: One over whether the state or the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations control southeast Oklahoma’s water; and the other over the aquifer’s depletion due to mining.

McCall doesn’t slam the door on the idea of pumping southeast Oklahoma’s water to meet the needs of Oklahoma City or drought-prone western parts of the state. But he speaks cautiously.

“We have to be very diligent and very smart with how we manage it and how we consume it,” McCall says. “If southwest Oklahoma is experiencing drought conditions it’s very likely that southeast Oklahoma is also.”

House members formally take their oaths of office Wednesday, but Tuesday a handful of lawmakers started filing bills for the 2017 legislative session that begins in February.

Senate Bill 1 would repeal language that prohibits the state from participating in the federal REAL ID Act.

Oklahoma passed a law in 2007 that said the state wouldn't comply with the federal regulations. Last month the Department of Public Safety announced the federal government denied the state an extension to become compliant with REAL ID.

Starting January 30 federal agencies will be prohibited from accepting Oklahoma driver's licenses and ID cards to enter military bases, federal buildings or courthouses. In 2018 that identification won't be accepted to board a commercial aircraft.

The bills' authors, Democratic state Sens. John Sparks, D-Norman, and Kay Floyd, R-Oklahoma City, filed an identical bill before the 2016 session, but it wasn't considered in committee. State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, authored compromise legislation last year that would’ve created an optional REAL ID-compliant license. That bill ultimately hit a procedural snag.

Two other bills were filed Tuesday by state Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee.

One joint resolution would increase the limit on school district indebtedness, and the other would raise the maximum amount property taxes can increase in order to fund school district buildings.

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