Claremore Daily Progress

September 8, 2011

Interim study to consider slashing number of legislators

Staff Reports
Claremore Progress

OKLAHOMA CITY — As lawmakers seek to downsize state government, state Rep. Gary Banz believes they should include themselves in the process and has filed legislation to downsize the Oklahoma Legislature.

“As lawmakers, we constantly talk about the need for smaller government,” said Banz, R-Midwest City. “My legislation lets legislators prove it in a way that shows we are truly committed to reducing the size of government.”

Under House Joint Resolution 1021, voters would have the opportunity to approve a constitutional amendment reducing the Oklahoma Legislature by approximately 10 percent. That would cut the number of seats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 101 to 91, and reduce the number of state senators from 48 to 43.

“I believe the Legislature needs to look at itself first,” Banz said. “If we ask agencies to consolidate, it is important for the Legislature to take the lead and do the same.”

If approved by voters, the change would be implemented in 2021 following the next Census and redistricting process.

“I was concerned another round of redistricting would be too disruptive to the electoral process if we tried to implement it before the next Census when we are required to redraw the lines anyway,” Banz said. “It is important that this change be implemented in a careful, deliberate manner.”

The reduced number of legislative seats would not be unprecedented, Banz noted.

In 1921, there were just 92 seats in the Oklahoma House of Representative, only one more than total that would be allowed under House Joint Resolution 1021.

On the other hand, in 1953 there were 124 members in the state House, far more than there are today.

“The House has successfully operated with far fewer members in the past, and the chamber has also successfully downsized in the past,” Banz said. “History shows this idea is very feasible.”

Lawmakers will review Banz’s proposal in a legislative study on September 20. Banz said those interested in commenting on House Joint Resolution 1021 – whether in favor or opposition – should contact his office at 557-7395.

“This would be a significant change, and I want to solicit input from every corner of Oklahoma,” Banz said. “I think this is good policy, but also believe it should be carefully vetted. We must ask ourselves, can we afford to continue the current system, and can we trust the voters to make this decision? If the answer to the first question is ‘no,’ I am certain the answer to the second question is ‘yes.’”