OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Republican author of Oklahoma's tough anti-illegal immigration law said Friday the state House's speaker-elect appears to be headed toward "a collision course" with other conservatives by not giving higher priority to their social agenda.
Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, said Oklahoma Republicans made historic gains in the Nov. 2 general election, extending majorities in the Legislature to all-time highs and winning all eight Democrat-held statewide offices on the ballot including governor, in part because of their strong support for conservative social issues.
But Terrill said published comments by GOP House Speaker-elect Kris Steele of Shawnee that his top priority will be economic development and job creation seem to trivialize the GOP's social agenda.
"It's the job of the speaker to accurately reflect the views of the caucus, not to thwart them," Terrill said. "It appears the speaker's views are headed for a collision course with the conservative side of the caucus. My interest is in making sure that the conservative agenda has a place at the table and gets advanced."
Steele, a minister who was formally chosen speaker-elect following the election, said he will not overlook the GOP's social agenda but wants his caucus to focus on policies that will improve Oklahoma's economy.
"It's going to be one of my focuses. That does not mean that these other issues are not important, because they are," Steele said. "We are not going to ignore the social issues. I will continue to support and promote things that are going to be good for Oklahoma from a social standpoint."
Steele said the House's 70 Republicans will hammer out their legislative agenda for the 2011 Oklahoma Legislature at a retreat in Bartlesville on Dec. 6 and 7. The entire Oklahoma House will consider installing Steele as speaker in January. The Legislature convenes Feb. 7.
In 2007, the Legislature passed an anti-illegal immigration bill authored by Terrill that at the time was the toughest in the nation. Among other things, the law, which has been challenged in federal court, requires use of an Internet-based system of employment authorization for public contractors.
Terrill has said conservative lawmakers plan to file bills mirroring Arizona's tough immigration law that would authorize police to seize vehicles driven by illegal immigrants. Conservatives also have vowed to re-introduce firearms bills vetoed last year by outgoing Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, including one to allow the open carrying of firearms.
But in comments first published in The Oklahoman, Steele said he wants Republicans to focus on issues like the economy instead of becoming mired in legislation involving immigration, weapons or other social issues. Terrill agreed growing the economy and creating jobs are important but accused Steele of "mocking the conservative agenda."
"There are a number of people who would consider themselves solid conservatives who are scratching their heads," he said. "Certainly you are seeing a great deal of tension in our caucus."
Steele said he did not intend to trivialize conservative social issues.
"By no means am I mocking anyone in our caucus. Everyone in our caucus is a valuable asset," he said.
Steele, who voted for Terrill's anti-illegal immigration measure, said his views on illegal immigration have not changed.
"I absolutely believe there's a right way and a wrong way for entering our country," Steele said. Those who enter illegally should face consequences, he said.
But Steele said Republicans have an opportunity to make great strides in growing the state's economy as the nation recovers from a recession.
"We're all committed conservatives. My job will be to keep us focused on the agenda," he said.Tags: