For these legislators, the future is bipartisan

February 24, 2023

The younger generation of lawmakers in Oklahoma are returning to a seemingly bygone method of governance: bipartisan statesmanship, focused on getting things done.

OKLAHOMA CITY – The younger generation of lawmakers in Oklahoma are returning to a seemingly bygone method of governance: bipartisan statesmanship, focused on getting things done.

The Oklahoma Future Caucus teamed up with the national Millennial Action Project to host a panel discussion at the Bricktown Brewery in Oklahoma City on Thursday.

The event, titled “Passing the Torch: How Young Legislators Shape Our Future,” was held at a popular downtown pub where the mood was relaxed and welcoming, with an open bar and buffet and time allotted for networking. But the young policymakers in attendance were clearly energized, hopeful and focused on getting good things accomplished for their constituencies.

Layla Zaidane, president and CEO at Millennial Action Project, moderated the event, with Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton; Sen. Jo Anna Dossett, D-Tulsa; Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton; and Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, serving on the panel.

The next generation of lawmakers, ages 45 and under, are shying away from the hyper-polarization plaguing today’s political environment that leads to inaction, with both sides refusing to compromise for fear they will be seen as “watering down” their party’s positions.

Each member of Oklahoma’s Future Caucus rejected the concept of “watering down,” instead framing compromise as the foundation of a functioning democracy.

A good idea is a good idea no matter who proposed it or who gets the credit for it, Pae said, and finding common ground on issues has brought together very different groups in support of legislation. For instance, Pae described a bill dealing with driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, which has brought together immigration advocates with law enforcement, economic development experts and the state’s agricultural industry in support of the measure.

Dossett, as a Democrat elected to represent a predominantly Republican district by roughly 600 votes, does not have the luxury of simply toeing a party line.

“I love the tightrope situation,” Dossett said. “I am absolutely forced not to vote Democratic Party line. … Anything I run is a reflection of my district. Maybe I push it sometimes.”

“Everything is a compromise,” Pittman said. “A compromise is a win … it’s more than they had before I got there.”

Though Republicans hold a solid majority in both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature, Montgomery said it is a mistake to dismiss the minority party as unimportant. There are times when support from the Democratic minority has made the difference in advancing a bill through the legislative process.

Members of the minority party also represent Oklahomans whose voices deserve to be heard, Montgomery added. There have been times where a good argument in favor of legislation proposed by the opposite party has changed his mind and earned his support.

“You can’t just say no just to say no, you have to figure out why,” Montgomery said.

The nonpartisan Millennial Action Project was formed in 2013 as the nation’s first and only caucus for young members of Congress before reaching out to state legislators. The organization seeks to activate “Millennial and Gen Z policy makers to cooperatively govern our country.”

Read the article on The Journal Record —>

Rep. Sara Jacobs


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