Brian Bingman, Mike Schulz designated Senate leaders

 Republicans in the
Oklahoma state Senate met in caucus on Tuesday, November 9,
electing State Sen. Brian Bingman of Sapulpa President Pro
Tempore-designate. While several leadership decisions were not
finalized, Mike Schulz of Altus was chosen as floor leader.

Republicans hold a 2-1 majority in the upper chamber, reaching an
unprecedented degree of control in only the second legislative cycle
with Republicans in charge of both legislative bodies.

In an interview with reporters after the caucus meeting, Sen. Bingman
said, “We look forward to the challenge. We’re going to have a
jobs-driven agenda. It’s jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what we’re focused

Pressed for details on how that jobs agenda will be advanced, Bingman
said, “A lot of this is driven by the Republican campaigns. You’ll see
more details as we develop the legislation. Certainly I expect tort
reform and workers comp reforms to be part of the agenda for job
creation. We know Oklahoma needs to mirror the reforms in certain
surrounding states like Texas.”

In response to questions about legal policy reforms and jobs creation,
Bingman said, “The business community has told us that the costs they
are paying are too great. We have to bring those costs own so they can
go out and hire more people, create more jobs for the people of
Oklahoma.” In businesses and in medical fields, he said, the states
needs further reform. Otherwise, he said, “our businesses will dart to
places like Texas where there is a great pro-business climate.”

Bingman said, “Of course the budget will be front and center. Developing
a budget for next year is going to be the greatest challenge we face.
The Rainy Day fund is almost gone exhausted, and there’s no federal
stimulus money. We are required to balance the budget and the shortfall
appears to be about $500 million. That will define a lot of this

Bingman declined to name specific budget cuts, saying, “It’s just too
early to be specific about that. I’d just ask you to give us a little
bit of time to meet as a caucus and develop our ideas. We’ll bring them
forward in time, new ideas for the challenges we face.”

Concerning possible reductions in force within state government, Bingman
noted his background in the private sector, and commented, “There is a
shortfall in the budget. In the private sector where I come from, when
there is a loss of revenue or income, you have to make cuts and you have
to trim your expenses. If that’s what we have to do in government, we
will do it. We will be looking at technology and efficiency.”

CapitolBeatOK asked about tax credits and exemptions designed to
“incentivize” business, and budget challenges that are leading to
critical scrutiny of the same, Bingman said, “Our job as legislators is
to look at each of these credits and exemptions and make sure it is, or
they are, achieving what was intended. I’m open-minded on how to
approach those issues to give ability for incentives to work, but to
make sure they are operating the way it was originally intended.”

For near-term work, he said, “We have many leadership positions to fill,
chairmanships and sub-committee chairmanships. We have to look at
creative ways to deliver state services.”

He said because he was just chosen by the enlarged GOP caucus, “I don’t
have the luxury of working with the previous pro temp. We plan to take
advantage of our membership and the expertise among our members. There
are 31 other members of the Republican caucus, individuals who are
highly qualified.”

CapitolBeatOK asked about the role of Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City, and other Democrats in the 16-member minority caucus.

Bingman replied, “I will welcome the opportunity to sit down with
Senator Andrew Rice and members of his caucus. We will certainly have
dialogue. Whether they are a Republican or a Democrat, we intend to work
together to move Oklahoma forward. There is talent there with the
Democrats and certainly with Senator Rice.”

In a prepared statement, Bingman said, “I’m ready for the challenge.” An
assistant majority floor leader in the past Senate, he was reelected
without opposition this year.

The new Senate includes nine new Republicans.  Six seats switched to
Republicans, including Senate District 4 (Mark Allen), Senate District 6
(Josh Brecheen), District 10 (Eddie Fields), District 14 (Frank
Simpson), District 18 (Kim David), and District 44 (Ralph Shortey).

Three new freshman Senators holding seats for the GOP, and their
district numbers, are Rob Johnson (22), David Holt (30), and Rick
Brinkley (34). They secured their seats in primaries and did not face
opposition in the general election.

Senators will be sworn in next Tuesday (November 16).  The upper chamber
will Senate will formally organize on Tuesday, January 4. Rules for the
2011 session will be passed, and the new Pro Tem will be officially