Oklahoma Senate

Last updated
Oklahoma Senate
Oklahoma State Legislature
Seal of Oklahoma.svg
Term limits
12 year cumulative total, in either or both chambers
New session started
February 4, 2019
Matt Pinnell (R)
since January 14, 2019
Greg Treat (R)
since January 8, 2019
Majority Floor Leader
Kim David (R)
since November 16, 2018
Minority Leader
Kay Floyd (D)
since November 16, 2018
Oklahoma senate diagram nov 2017.svg
Political groups


Length of term
4 years
AuthorityArticle V, Oklahoma Constitution
Salary$38,400/year + $153 per diem + $10,000 bonus=($58,804)
Last election
November 6, 2018
(24 seats)
Next election
November 3, 2020
(24 seats)
RedistrictingLegislative Control
Meeting place
Senate chamber of the Oklahoma Senate, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.jpg
State Senate Chamber
Oklahoma State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma State Senate
Seal of Oklahoma.svg
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The Oklahoma Senate is the upper house of the two houses of the Legislature of Oklahoma, the other being the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The total number of senators is set at 48 by the Oklahoma Constitution. [1]

An upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house. The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smaller and often has more restricted power than the lower house. Examples of upper houses in countries include the Australian Senate, Brazil's Senado Federal, the Canadian Senate, France's Sénat, Germany's Bundesrat, India's Rajya Sabha, Ireland's Seanad, Malaysia's Dewan Negara, the Netherlands' Eerste Kamer, Pakistan's Senate of Pakistan, Russia's Federation Council, Switzerland's Council of States, United Kingdom's House of Lords and the United States Senate.

Oklahoma Legislature

The Legislature of the State of Oklahoma is the state legislative branch of the U.S. state of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma House of Representatives and Oklahoma Senate are the two houses that make up the bicameral state legislature. There are 101 state representatives, each serving a two-year term, and 48 state senators, who serve four-year terms that are staggered so only half of the Oklahoma Senate districts are eligible in each election year. Legislators are elected directly by the people from single member districts of equal population. The Oklahoma Legislature meets annually in the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma House of Representatives lower house of U.S. state legislature

The Oklahoma House of Representatives is the lower house of the legislature of the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Its members introduce and vote on bills and resolutions, provide legislative oversight for state agencies, and help to craft the state's budget. The upper house of the Oklahoma Legislature is the Oklahoma Senate.


Senators approve or reject gubernatorial appointments, and contribute to the creation of both state law and an annual state budget. Every ten years, they aid in drawing new boundaries for Oklahoma's electoral districts. The Oklahoma Senate also serves as a court of impeachment.

The presiding officer of the Senate is the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, who is the President of the Senate. Since the 1960s, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate has presided over daily work. Prior to that time, the President of the Senate took a leading role in the Senate, including appointing committees and members to those committees. The President of the Senate may cast a vote only in the instance of a tie vote and may not vote to create a tie.

Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma

The Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma is the second-highest executive official of the state government of Oklahoma. As first in the gubernatorial line of succession, the lieutenant governor becomes the new governor of Oklahoma upon the death, resignation, or removal of the governor. The lieutenant governor also serves as the president of the Oklahoma Senate, and may cast a vote to break ties in that chamber.

President pro tempore of the Oklahoma Senate

The President pro tempore of the Oklahoma Senate is the second-highest-ranking official of the Oklahoma Senate and the highest-ranking state senator. The Oklahoma Constitution designates the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma as the highest-ranking official, serving ex officio as President of the Senate, even though he or she only votes in the case of a tie. During the lieutenant governor's absence, the president pro tempore presides over sessions. The lieutenant governor presides over sessions devoted to ceremonial purposes, while the bulk of the management and political power is reserved for the president pro tempore.


Early years

The 1907 Oklahoma Constitution established the Oklahoma Senate alongside the Oklahoma House of Representatives. It met in Guthrie, Oklahoma until 1910. [2] Henry S. Johnston, the author of the initiative and referendum section of the Oklahoma Constitution, served as the first Senate President Pro Tempore. [3]

Guthrie, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Guthrie is a city and county seat in Logan County, Oklahoma, United States, and a part of the Oklahoma City Metroplex. The population was 10,191 at the 2010 census, a 2.7 percent increase from the 9,925 at the 2000 census.

Henry S. Johnston American politician

Henry Simpson Johnston was an American lawyer and politician who served as a delegate to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, the first President pro tempore of the Oklahoma Senate, and the seventh governor of Oklahoma. He would become the second governor in Oklahoma history to be impeached and removed from office.

After women in Oklahoma earned the right to vote in 1918, the Oklahoma Senate gained its first female state senator. Lamar Looney was elected in 1920 over a male incumbent, G. L. Wilson. Looney was a progressive Democrat and served from 1921 to 1929. [4]

Democratic Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party.

1960s to Present

The United States Supreme Court "one man, one vote" decision in Baker v. Carr (1962) led to a court order that forced Oklahoma to equalize representation. [5] Before that decision, Oklahoma had 48 senatorial districts that represented either a populous county or several less-populated counties, but did not provide for districts of equal population.

Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that decided that redistricting issues present justiciable questions, thus enabling federal courts to intervene and to decide redistricting cases. The defendants unsuccessfully argued that redistricting of legislative districts is a "political question", and hence not a question that may be resolved by federal courts.

Since 1964, under the holding of Reynolds v. Sims , 377 U.S. 533 (1964) districts must be apportioned within a 5% margin of the average target size district as determined by the U.S. Census state population figures divided by the forty-eight districts. This allows for some districts to be slightly smaller or larger than others. The Oklahoma Senate draws its own maps of its district lines, which are subject to the approval of both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the governor. Should the redistricting not occur in a timely manner, the lines are determined by a panel of five statewide elected officials.

In 1966, voters approved 90-day legislative sessions and, in 1968, they voted to create a Board of Legislative Compensation. [6]

An initiative petition championed by Governor Henry Bellmon in 1989 created a requirement that the legislative sessions end by 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May. [6]

Historic tie

The November 7, 2006 elections resulted in an unprecedented 24–24 tie in the number of seats held by Oklahoma's two major political parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. [7] Although the Republican Party added two seats to their prior total, [7] they had lost a seat in July due to Nancy Riley changing in her party affiliation from Republican to Democratic. [8] The Democratic Party did hold the seat of lieutenant governor, who also serves as President of the Senate, giving them a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. [7]

The result was a power-sharing agreement for the 2007 and 2008 legislative sessions that split control of the presiding officer position of President Pro Tempore into two Co-President Pro Tempores, one of each party. Officially, a Democratic member held the President Pro Tempore position for 23 months and a Republican member held the position for only one month. [9] Unofficially, decisions were made with the approval of both Co-President Pro Tempores.

By winning two more seats in the 2008 elections, the Republicans assumed control of the Oklahoma Senate for the first time in state history and held a 26–22 majority, thus ending the power sharing arrangement between the parties.

Powers and process

Legislative sessions

The Senate meets in regular session in east wing of the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City, from early February to the last Friday in May. [6] Special sessions may be called by the Governor of Oklahoma, or by supermajority vote of the Legislature. Unlike their counterparts in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, state senators are not restricted on introduction of bills and resolutions.

The Oklahoma Senate advises and consents to numerous appointments of the Governor, including the entire Governor's Cabinet. Nominations are heard by respective standing committees rather than through a committee on nominations.


Originally, the Oklahoma Constitution-based the Senate on counties. The 19 most populous counties, as determined by the most recent federal census, were each to elect one senator. The 58 less populous counties were to be joined into 29 two-county districts, each of which was to elect one senator. In apportioning the Senate, the Oklahoma Constitution required that consideration be given to population, compactness, area, political units, historical precedents, economic and political interests, contiguous territory and other major factors, to the extent feasible.

In 1964, the United States Supreme Court ruled this method violated the federal Constitution. Since then, every ten years, the Oklahoma Senate is responsible for passing into law new district boundaries for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Oklahoma Senate and Oklahoma Congressional delegation. The Senate and House have traditionally drawn their own lines without any comment from the other body and work together with the Congressional delegation to draw lines appropriate for the next election. The Governor must sign these bills into law or a statewide panel is convened to draw the disputed lines.

Court of Impeachment

The Oklahoma Senate serves a dual role as both a legislative body and as a judicial court. As the court of impeachment, it is an independent court in the Oklahoma court system. Impeachment charges are brought by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, but heard by the court of impeachment, with Oklahoma's chief justice presiding over the court. If the chief justice or a member of the Oklahoma Supreme Court is charged with impeachment, a state senator can preside over the court of impeachment.

Impeachment charges may only be brought against the governor, other statewide elected state officials and justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court for willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude committed while in office. Impeached officials are immediately suspended in discharging their duties. Should the impeachment fail, the official returns to their duties. If the impeachment is successful and the defendant found guilty, the official is removed from office.

Party composition

Oklahoma Senate districts after the November 6, 2018 elections.
Democratic Party
Republican Party Oklahoma Senate map November 2018.png
Oklahoma Senate districts after the November 6, 2018 elections.
  Democratic Party
  Republican Party
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Republican Democratic Vacant
50th legislature (2004–2006)2226480
51st legislature (2006–2008)2424480
52nd legislature (2008–2010)2622480
53rd legislature (2010–2012)3216480
54th legislature (2012–2014)3612480
Begin 55th legislature (2014–2016)408480
End 55th legislature399
Begin 56th legislature (2016–2018)426480
Begin 57th Legislature (2018–2020)399480
Latest voting share81.25%18.75%


Terms and qualifications

In order to file for election to the Senate, candidates must be twenty-five years of age at the time of their election. [10] The candidate must also be a qualified elector in their respective counties or districts and shall reside in their respective counties or districts during their term of office. [10] No person is eligible to serve as a member of the Legislature if they are serving as an officer of the United States or State government. Furthermore, any person who has been adjudged guilty of a felony is not eligible to election to the Legislature. If a member of the Senate is expelled for corruption, they are not eligible to return to the Legislature.

The senators are elected to four-year terms on alternating cycles. [1] The odd senatorial districts are elected in the same cycle of every presidential election year (years divisible by four, e.g., 2012, 2016); the even numbered senatorial districts are elected during the gubernatorial election year (even-numbered years not divisible by four, e.g., 2010, 2014).

Senators serve a four-year term and are limited to three terms or 12 years. A term-limited member can not run for election to the House of Representative as both representative terms and senate terms are added together in determining the total number of legislative years in office. [11] When term limits were implemented in 1992, they were not applied retroactively, which meant that senators elected prior to their implementation could serve up to three full terms following the implementation of term limits. For example, the longest-serving member of the Oklahoma State Senate, Gene Stipe was first elected in 1956, but would not have been term limited out until 2004, had he not resigned the previous year. [12]

Salaries and benefits

The majority of Oklahoma legislators receive $38,400 in annual pay while presiding officers earn a larger salary. Additionally, legislators can seek reimbursement for expenses related to meals and lodging during the legislative session, and for certain travel expenses related to their duties at any point during the year. They also have access to benefits received by state employees, including health and life insurance as well as retirement savings plans.


The Lieutenant Governor serves as President of the Oklahoma Senate, but only casts a vote in the case of a tie and presides less frequently since the 1960s. The President Pro Tempore is the one who serves as leader of the Senate and is the head of the majority party. The President Pro Tempore appoints the majority floor leader and the chair of the appropriations committee. Along with the elected officers of the majority caucus (caucus chair, caucus vice chair, three assistant majority leaders and four majority whips), they comprise the leadership of the Senate majority caucus. The leader of the minority caucus is called either the Republican Leader or Democratic Leader, depending on which party is in the minority. Along with the elected officers of the minority party (assistant leaders, assistant whips and the caucus chair and vice chair), they comprise the Senate minority leadership team.

Notable past members

Todd Lamb, the former Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma and President of the Oklahoma Senate, previously served as a state senator. A number of Oklahoma governors also served in the Oklahoma Senate, including Brad Henry, Raymond D. Gary, William J. Holloway and Henry S. Johnston. Former Congressmen John Jarman and Clem McSpadden both served in the Oklahoma Senate. Harry J. W. Belvin longest serving Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation (In 1948 the Secretary of Interior appointed Harry Belvin as the chief of the Choctaw tribe, along with chiefs of the other four tribes in eastern Oklahoma. ) served as both an Oklahoma Senator and Member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Scott Pruitt, the controversial former EPA Administrator who faced several investigations into his conflicts of interest and management behavior (including excessive spending), had served previously as Oklahoma Attorney General and a member of the Oklahoma Senate.

Past composition of the Senate

See also

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  1. 1 2 Section V-9A: Senatorial districts - Tenure, Constitution of the State of Oklahoma at Oklahoma Public Legal Research System (accessed August 1, 2018)
  2. Farmer, Rick. "Legislature," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/L/LE010.html (accessed April 16, 2013)
  3. Burke, Bob. Johnston, Henry Simpson Archived 2013-07-05 at WebCite Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (accessed May 9, 2013)
  4. Pappas, Christine. Looney, Lamar (1871-1935), Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (accessed May 9, 2013)
  5. Agnew, Brad. Twentieth-Century Oklahoma, Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (accessed May 10, 2013)
  6. 1 2 3 A Century to Remember Archived 2012-09-10 at the Wayback Machine , Ok.gov (accessed April 30, 2013)
  7. 1 2 3 Krehbiel, Randy. GOP victories create a tie in state Senate, Tulsa World, November 8, 2006 (accessed May 14, 2013)
  8. Hoberock, Barbara and Mick Hinton. "Senator bolts abhorrent GOP", Tulsa World (accessed May 14, 2013)
  9. Hoberock, Barbara. "Senate's power-sharing accord carries a cost", Tulsa World, July 12, 2007 (accessed May 14, 2013)
  10. 1 2 Section V-17: Qualified electors, Constitution of the State of Oklahoma at Oklahoma Public Legal Research System (accessed May 3, 2010)
  11. Section V-17A: Limitation of time served in the Legislature, Oklahoma Constitution Online (accessed May 23, 2013)
  12. Continuing Coverage of Gene Stipe (NewsOK.com) Archived 2007-12-08 at the Wayback Machine

Coordinates: 35°29′32″N97°30′12″W / 35.49222°N 97.50333°W / 35.49222; -97.50333