The Oklahoma Senate adjourned its 2009 legislative session Tuesday after Republicans won a battle to enact a bill to create a central information officer to preside over the state's computer systems.


The Senate, which had a Republican majority for the first time in state history, abandoned its plans to adjourn last Friday when efforts to approve the technology bill failed.


The Oklahoma Senate adjourned its 2009 legislative session Tuesday after Republicans won a battle to enact a bill to create a central information officer to preside over the state's computer systems.

The Senate, which had a Republican majority for the first time in state history, abandoned its plans to adjourn last Friday when efforts to approve the technology bill failed.

The measure passed Tuesday on a 25-23 vote over Democratic opposition, and the Senate adjourned its yearly session at 1:20 p.m. The House had quit on Friday.

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, said the GOP had produced "significant changes" this year. Among other things, he pointed to passage of bills changing the way civil lawsuits are litigated, defining state water rights and creating efficiencies in state government.

"This was a historic session," said Senate Majority Leader Todd Lamb, R-Edmond. "I'm just proud of the fact that the train ran on time."

Democrats expressed a different opinion, saying Republicans had spent the year protecting special interests. Republicans killed several bills to require insurance companies to extend coverage to autism and other diseases and disorders.

"The session was great for insurance companies and big business. That's about it," said Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau.

During debate on the technology bill, Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, said the legislation could save the state "tens of millions of dollars" through efficiencies in the state's information technology system.

"This is not about big government. This is not about small government. This is about efficient government," Jolley said.

Democrats, however, said it gave too much power to a chief information officer in the awarding of contracts to computer vendors. They asked that action on the proposal be delayed until 2010.

"These vendors are not interested in saving us money. They are interesting in making money," said Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, who is in the computer business.

Some Democrats have suggested the measure was written to steer business or a job to someone.

"If this was just a mere good government bill, we would have let it go until next year," Wilson said.

Corn implied Republicans were using "fuzzy math" in support of the bill and questioned why higher education was exempted from the bill.

Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, said it was "very bizarre" that the legislation specified that the chief information officer could not be paid "less than $130,000."

Adelson said the state already has a person who functions as chief information officer. "We're shifting boxes here," he said.

Jolley said he had not talked to anyone about a contract for the state computer systems expected to be developed because of the bill.

He said the governor would name the chief information officer and it was not a partisan bill as Democrats argued.

All 22 Democrats and Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, voted against the bill. But the other 25 Republicans voted for it, ensuring its approval. It takes 25 votes to pass a bill in the 48-member Senate.

The GOP leadership could not muster 25 votes last week because Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, was out of state. Russell spoke in favor of the bill and voted for it on Tuesday.

Senators also passed several budget bills sent over from the House before that body finished its work last week.

Coffee said it cost about $12,000 for senators to meet the extra day.

Legislators had until this coming Friday to adjourn, but had adopted plans to adjourn a week early.


Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.