Monday, December 3, 2012

Johnson is a GREAT PICK!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
 by Steve Fair
On Monday, State Representative Dennis Johnson, (R- Duncan) was named Majority Leader in the Oklahoma State House.  In his new duties, Johnson will help incoming Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, (R-Lawton) craft the legislative agenda in the next session.  He will also work within the House caucus to help convince all the Republicans to pull on the same end of the rope at the same time. 

“The House majority party is a diverse group of talented, experienced people who have lots of energy,” said Johnson. “All of us will be working hard throughout the next session to push our specific bills through the legislative process. It gets pretty intense at times, so, one of the duties of the Majority Leader will be to help the Caucus stay focused. A unified Majority Caucus with common goals will be crucial to our success. I look forward to the task.”

Johnson is a small business owner and also has experience with municipal government, having served as Duncan’s mayor.  He also has a unique ability to get along with virtually anyone.  Like Will Rogers, Johnson has never met a man he didn’t like and you would be hard pressed to find anyone at the Capitol who doesn’t like Johnson. 

Johnson started his political career as a Duncan City Councilman.  Upon the death of the mayor, he became mayor and then won re-election to a full three year term, beating a fellow city councilman.  Johnson gained the reputation of being fair as well as businesslike in his approach to government.  Even those who disagreed with him found him to be pleasant and affable. 

Shannon’s other leadership team members include Representative Fred Jordan, (R-Tulsa) as Co- Majority Leader, Representative Pam Petersen, (R-Tulsa) will be the new floor leader, Representative Todd Thomason, (R-Ada) the Majority Whip and Representative Scott Martin, (R-Norman) will chair the powerful Appropriations and Budget committee.

Shannon chose a much different leadership team than his predecessor, Speaker Kris Steele.  Shannon’s team is more personable and less political.  That doesn’t mean Shannon’s team doesn’t understand the legislative process, politics, or how to get bills passed.  These have been effective legislators and are not novices, but Shannon has chosen people whose common strength is they can work with those they disagree with in a civil, respectful manner. 

In the recent past, that has not been the case.  Some in the Republican House caucus felt they were just a number- a vote necessary to move the leadership’s agenda forward- and their individual viewpoints and opinions were not appreciated.  It was my way or the highway and as a result the agenda was often stalled or compromised. 

Shannon has wisely picked a team of quality people with the right temperament to lead.  They will listen to their fellow members and be respectful of differing opinions and not retaliatory.  They are not threatened by someone who doesn’t agree with them 100% of the time and more importantly don’t consider them an enemy.

The 2013 legislative agenda will be important to the future of Oklahoma.  Issues like true workers comp reform, water rights, and the reduction/elimination of the state income tax will be on the agenda.  How the Republican led legislature responds to these issues will impact Oklahomans for decades. 

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