I had the honor of being the presiding officer in the House of Representatives this week. Four members from the class of representatives elected in 2016 with me are taking a turn running the speaker’s chair and presiding over the day’s business. Wednesday was my turn.
My time as presiding officer seemed to fly. I’m sure as I get more practice, the pace will seem to slow. The House considered a half-dozen bills during my stint. In the beginning, my mind raced as I anticipated what to do and say next. After the first couple of bills, I hit my stride. The floor ran smoothly the entire time I was in the chair.
The presiding officer’s job is a serious one since he or she must keep decorum and order in the House. Representatives are not just allowed to ask questions or debate freely; there’s an order to proceedings. The presiding officer directs members’ attention to the bills being presented and makes sure during questioning that members stay on questions and not stray to debate. If questioning or debate become excessive or duplicative, the presiding officer must decide when to bring the member to order. This can often spark anger. It’s a balancing act of allowing enough questioning to satisfy the requirement of being fully transparent in running the people’s government but not bogging down the process to the point that no legislation gets passed.
Presiding officers also are sometimes called upon to rule on whether members are adhering to House rules. One must be careful to be fair and objective, but with any ruling there is a real risk of angering one side or the other.
We often must call for order in the House and ask members to take their seats or their conversations outside of the chamber. As you can imagine, with 101 representatives, other staff members and pages all in one space, as well as people filling the House gallery, it can become a noisy place.
I look forward to my next time in the speaker’s chair.
On a separate note, my House Bill 1902 passed the House Appropriations & Budget Committee this week. This measure would increase the Medicaid nursing home reimbursement rate to improve the quality of care for our nursing home residents. It also would improve staffing ratios, increase staff training, and incentivize nursing homes to improve care using a pay-for-performance model that would improve rankings on quality of care. Our nursing homes are in great need of this additional funding. With better pay and better training, staff will be able to provide better care to the residents in these facilities. This measure now is eligible to be heard on the House floor.
I will keep you updated as the session progresses, and please feel free to reach out to me with your questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling my office (405) 557-7327.
Marcus McEntire represents Oklahoma House District 50.