To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Observercast

Sine Die? Uh, Never Mind

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BY ARNOLD HAMILTON

He can spin it any way he wants, but today’s Senate standoff was one final public relations disaster for President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee in a session full of public relations disasters.

The inability to round up the 25 votes necessary for passage of SB 980 – Coffee’s much ballyhooed Oklahoma Information Services Act – was a microcosm of a session in which land mines seemed to be detonating all around the OKC Republican.

It even forced the Senate to renege on its pledge to wrap up the session a week early – an important PR marker for a first-year GOP majority intent on proving it could manage legislative affairs far more efficiently than the long-entrenched Democrats.

Coffee’s problems through much of the session were self-generated: taxes paid late, ethics reports filed past deadline, more than $100,000 in campaign fund expenditures unexplained.

Today’s four-plus-hour standoff reflects problems within his caucus. He managed 23 Republican votes [and no Democratic votes] for his proposal, but one of his sure-fire votes, OKC Sen. Steve Russell, was absent.

That left Seminole Sen. Harry Coates and OKC Sen. Jim Reynolds to decide the fate of Coffee’s dubious plan to create a state computer system czar. [Ask Texas Gov. Rick Perry how well this idea worked in the Lone Star State.]

Coates, who is anything but a rubber-stamp for Coffee & Co., was the lone Republican to vote against it.

Reynolds was MIA … evidently chapped that he couldn’t get the GOP’s legislative powers-that-be to unshackle his proposal for a statewide vote that could have established a new cap on property taxes.

Things got so crazy during the standoff that rumors swirled a jet was being dispatched to retrieve Russell – supposedly on a trip to Colorado – so that he could cast a vote for the proposal.

In the end, with only 23 votes for the measure, the Senate leadership decided to scrap the Legislature’s 5 p.m. session-ending deadline [set in a resolution approved at mid-session]. The new Senate schedule: Return to work on Tuesday, after Memorial Day. The Constitution requires the Legislature to adjourn by Friday.

My guess is Coffee can’t wait for this session to end.

Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.