Legislature Preview: Gov. Mary Fallin year in review
BY Staff Reports
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 7:36 AM
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Legislature Preview: State Leadership
Politically, 2012 was an odd year for Gov. Mary Fallin. Her No. 1 legislative initiative, to substantially reduce if not eliminate the state income tax, crashed in the final days of the legislative session, yet Fallin crawled from the wreckage apparently unscathed.
To Republicans' surprise, the electorate had no appreciable reaction to the failure on taxes. Meanwhile, a solid economy and continued disdain for all things Obama helped solidify Fallin's majorities in the state House and Senate and allowed her to concentrate on such difficult issues as Medicaid expansion and economic development.
Oklahoma's relative fiscal stability helped raise Fallin's national profile. During the presidential campaign, she appeared regularly on national television as a surrogate for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and, late in the year, was among a small number of governors to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House.
On a more mundane level, Fallin's aggressive transportation program continued its advance, and the consolidation of gubernatorial power continued - though not entirely unabated - through the transformation of the Office of State Finance into the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
About 12:40 p.m. Monday, Fallin will give her 2012 state of the state speech. Tax reform, economic development and education likely will be big issues in the session, which starts Monday and ends in late May.
Here is a look back at some successes and setbacks for Fallin in 2012.
Economy: Driven by sharply higher domestic oil and natural gas production, Oklahoma's economy performed relatively well in 2012. How much a governor has to do with a state's economy is debatable, but Fallin's administration has stressed its "business friendliness."
Spending: Fallin might not have been able to cut taxes, but she and the Republican-led Legislature did hold the line on appropriated spending. The current budget is essentially flat compared to the previous year. About $600 million has gone into the state's constitutional reserve fund - also known as the "rainy day" fund - despite considerable pressure to spend that money on education or capital improvements.
National profile: Fallin became a fairly high-profile surrogate for Romney during the presidential campaign, drew some attention for her promotion of compressed natural gas vehicles, and attended a White House briefing as vice chairman of the National Governors Association. At one point, she was mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate.
Government reform: Fallin and the Republicans continued to remake state government, with one result being the continued concentration of power in the Governor's Office. Bringing more functions under the auspices of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, whose head is appointed by the governor, greatly extends the governor's authority and changes the political dynamic of state government.
Transportation: The Legislature continued Fallin's program of shifting more money to the repair and replacement of the state's deficient roads and bridges.
Income tax cut: Fallin seems to have abandoned her more ambitious ideas in favor of a small reduction. The sobering experience of Kansas, which reduced its income tax with no real fallback plan, seems to have made an impression at the Oklahoma Capitol.
Capitol repairs: As the chief executive officer, Fallin has some responsibility for the care and upkeep of state facilities - especially the state's No. 1 facility.
American Indian Cultural Center: Fallin has not gotten too involved in the controversial project, but it is a problem that a lot of people - including a lot of people who matter politically - want solved.
Health care: Fallin's decision to refuse enhanced Medicaid and not to create a state insurance exchange may have been politically popular, at least for now, but Obama's re-election and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act put the governor in a difficult position. Medical providers, especially rural hospitals, are pressuring her to accept the expanded Medicaid benefits, and a lot of Oklahomans remain uninsured or underinsured.
Abortion ruling: The state Supreme Court continued to strike down attempts to limit abortion and abortion rights - including, for the first time, a measure signed by Fallin. HB 1970, which restricts access to abortion-inducing drugs, was ruled out by a unanimous vote of the court.
State of the State
Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to give her State of the State address about 12:40 p.m. Monday to lawmakers in a joint session in the House chamber. She is expected to continue her focus on jobs and improving the economy. A briefing on her proposed executive budget is set for 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Capitol. Her budget calls for additional funding for mental health services. To watch her speech live, go to tulsaworld.com/oeta.
OKLAHOMA LEGISLATURE FACTS AND FIGURES
Session: The first regular session of Oklahoma's 54th Legislature starts Monday and must end no later than 5 p.m. May 31. The second regular session of the 54th Legislature will be held in 2014. Some bills from the 2013 session could be carried over to the 2014 session.
Gender: There are 85 men and 16 women in the Oklahoma House. Sixty-one of the men and 11 of the women are Republicans. There are 45 men and three women in the Oklahoma Senate. Thirty-five of the men and one of the women are Republicans.
Race: There are four members of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, two each in the House and Senate. All four are Democrats. There are 22 current Oklahoma lawmakers who are listed as members of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators on the group's website. Eighteen are in the House (10 Republicans and eight Democrats) and four are in the Senate (two Republicans and two Democrats). Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon is of mixed racial heritage - black and American Indian. He is part of the national American Indian caucus, but not the black caucus.
Partisan Control: There are 72 Republicans and 29 Democrats in the Oklahoma House. Republicans have had majority control of the House since 2004.
There are 36 Republicans and 12 Democrats in the Oklahoma Senate. Republicans have had majority control of the Senate since 2008.
Term limits: State House members serve two-year terms. Senators serve four-year terms.
The state Constitution limits lawmakers to 12 years total service in the House and Senate.
Seven members of the House and four members of the Senate will reach their term limits at the end of the 2013-14 legislative session.
Budget: The state budget year starts on July 1. The state Equalization Board has determined that the amount available for budgeting in fiscal year 2014 is $7 billion, a $214.6 million increase from the current budget year.
CONTACTING THE STATE LEGISLATURE
Toll free: You can reach your legislator's office at the state Capitol toll-free.
House: (800) 522-8502 Senate: (800) 865-6490
Online: To find your state legislators and more contact information for them, visit tulsaworld.com/capitolreport and click the link on the right.
Original Print Headline: Gov. Mary Fallin: A look back
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Gov. Mary Fallin failed to push through a tax cut package last year, but Oklahoma's relative fiscal stability helped raise Fallin's national profile. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World file