Treat prepared to be 'politely confrontational' as Senate leader
Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat's face rarely displays emotion, and fellow lawmakers joke that merely looking at him won't reveal any insight into his current mood.
In contrast, Treat's blunt speaking style leaves few doubts about what he's thinking.
The eight-year lawmaker describes his own demeanor as "politely confrontational," a character trait he plans to keep in his first year as leader of the GOP-controlled state Senate.
"He certainly doesn't back down from challenges and probably actually likes 'em," said former Sen. Mike Schulz, who was last year's pro tem.
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Treat's political experience began in the 1990s as an intern for Tom Coburn when he was in the U.S. House.
He later worked on numerous Republican campaigns and for Mary Fallin during her time as lieutenant governor. Treat, 40, was also director of the state GOP's get out the vote organization.
Elected in 2011 to succeed Todd Lamb in a district that includes northwest Oklahoma City and parts of Edmond, Treat was in Senate leadership five years later and was second in command by 2018.
One of the first things Treat set out to do as the top Senate leader was narrow Republicans' attention to a small number of priorities.
Majority Floor Leader Kim David was in charge of the caucus agenda committee and said Treat pushed her to develop a four- or five-point agenda.
"He kept coming down and saying, 'Guys, I only want four, keep trying,'" said David, R-Porter.
The result was an agenda focused on education funding and five-day school weeks, the creation of a new budget review office, criminal justice reform and expanded hiring power for the governor.
Like many of her colleagues, David confirmed Treat's argumentative style.
But she said it leads to better dialogue.
"He likes a good argument and encourages other opinions," David said. "He'll argue the other side of the coin even if he doesn't believe it just to get a discussion going."
Focus on reform
After several years of budget shortfalls that put much of the Legislature's attention on agency cuts and tax increases, Treat said he wants the focus this year to be on government reform.
He has authored the bill to create the proposed budget review office, which he said would also look at performance metrics.
"When you pass a program, you hope it's successful ... but you really have no independent way of seeing if it's hitting the target we intended to hit," Treat said.
Treat said his focus on reform won't result in a lack of attention on conservative social issues, including expanded gun rights and abortion restrictions.
But he doesn't want to push legal limits.
"On the (anti-abortion) issue, which is the whole reason I got involved (in politics), anything that we pass that on its face is unconstitutional would set back the pro-life movement," Treat said.
Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, who is also in her first year as leader, said her caucus would support new revenue for education and push for Medicaid expansion.
Democrats hope the threat of a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid might encourage the Republican majority to create their own expansion plan.
"I don't govern from a place of fear," Treat said in response to the threat of a ballot initiative. "I'm not going to be pushed to a position based on someone's actions inside or outside of this building."
However, Treat has acknowledged there are different opinions on Medicaid expansion within his caucus and said he's open to the debate.
At the end of the day, Treat said he will encourage his caucus members to act on their instincts but be part of a unified vision.
"My bluntness doesn't know an end in communicating with members," Treat said. "I try to remind them they are part of something bigger than themselves."