Claremore Daily Progress

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March 18, 2013

State legislators take look at decorum problems



While the House, with 101 members, has a reputation for occasional rowdiness, the Senate also has not been immune from decorum issues. After grumblings that some members were becoming too flippant with their remarks and too personal during debates, the entire Senate went into a rare closed-door executive session on Monday to discuss Senate decorum. Visitors in the gallery and members of the media were ordered out of the chamber for the first time in more than two decades.

“We’re all here for a short time, and decorum is special in the Senate,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “So sometimes people need to be reminded. We’re only here for a short time, but the legend of the Senate continues.”

Sen. David Holt acknowledged he was at least partly to blame for jokingly referring to Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage during debate as “Matlock,” the folksy southern lawyer played by Andy Griffith in the 1980s television drama of the same name.

“It was one of the many things that contributed to that session, but there were many other things that were discussed,” said Holt, R-Oklahoma City. “It was all kinds of stuff related to decorum.”

While rare, major breaches of decorum are nothing new in the Oklahoma Legislature. The most notable occurred in 1947 when then-Sen. Tom Anglin was shot in the hip on the Senate floor in a confrontation with a House member, Rep. Jimie Scott, according to newspaper accounts and “A Century to Remember,” an historical account of the Oklahoma House written in 1999 by its former research director, George Humphreys.

Jim Glover, who served in the House for 26 years until 2002, frequently presided over the House in the 1980s and 1990s recalled one incident when two members, both Republicans, got into a tussle on the House floor.

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