MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 11, 2014

House elects new speaker

Jeff Hickman seen as able to build consensus


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House of Representatives elected Rep. Jeff Hickman of Fairview on Monday as their next speaker, one of the most powerful positions in state government.

The House voted 69-29 along party lines Monday to select Hickman, 40, over Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City. Hickman was sworn in with his wife, Jana, and young son at his side.

“I stand before you incredibly humbled, maybe a bit overwhelmed at the task ahead, but I want to say thank you,” Hickman said.

Well-liked and approachable, Hickman has a reputation as a consensus-builder and frequently presides over the 101-member House.

Hickman said he wants to keep taxes low and state regulations to a minimum. He cited funding for education and infrastructure, prison overcrowding and the unfunded liability of the state’s pension systems as some of the more pressing problems for the state.

“We know we have budget challenges ahead, but I hope you also see the possibilities we have before us,” he said. “We face a year that will require creative solutions. We need all 101 members of the House on deck.”

The Republican caucus met behind closed doors earlier in the day and cast secret ballots to select Hickman over Rep. Mike Jackson of Enid. The results of that election were not released.

Jackson said after the vote that there were no hard feelings, and that he believed House Republicans would come together behind Hickman.

Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement praising Hickman as a “dedicated leader.”

The position is significant because the speaker joins the governor and the Senate president pro tem at the negotiating table for the $7 billion state budget and helps shape the political agenda for the state. The speaker, who receives an extra $18,000 over his base House salary, also oversees the House’s roughly 115 employees and $16 million annual budget, and appoints the chairmen and members of various committees.

First elected in 2004, Hickman is a farmer and rancher from northwestern Oklahoma who previously served as press secretary for University of Oklahoma President David Boren.