OKLAHOMA CITY —
Although Republicans outnumber Democrats 72-29 in the House, Shannon will be forced to wrangle with a GOP caucus that has often been fractured in recent years as its right wing has grown with an infusion of tea party-aligned members. Inman last year often joined forces with some disgruntled Republicans to help derail legislation supported by then-Speaker Kris Steele.
Rep. Eric Proctor, the deputy Democratic floor leader, said he believes some of those opportunities will present themselves again for Democrats this year.
"It's going to be very difficult for 51 members of that caucus agree," said Proctor, D-Tulsa. "They're going to have to have Democratic help to get through the process.
"Our caucus is always willing to work with anybody who's willing to move the state forward. That's really our role. The House Democrats are the conscience of the state Capitol. To be successful, Speaker Shannon needs a diligent, loyal opposition, and that's what we're going to be willing to provide him."
Shannon said his top priorities for the upcoming session will be to focus on overhauling the state's worker's compensation system, reducing the tax burden, and shoring up the state's pension system. These goals, he said, will help to improve the state's economic climate and lead to growth in business and industry.
The new speaker also decried what he described what he described as an "out-of-control federal government" and promised to push back against intrusive federal mandates that could hinder state progress and result in fewer personal freedoms for Oklahoma citizens.
"The state of Oklahoma will not go down the path of Washington, D.C., not on my watch," Shannon said.
He also criticized a growing sense of entitlement among generations of Americans who depend too much on the government for their subsistence.