- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Changing the way Oklahoma judges are selected and making sure state driver’s licenses comply with federal security requirements are among the topics lawmakers will take up when they return to the Capitol in February, Republican legislative leaders said Thursday.

GOP and Democratic leaders discussed some of the issues they’re expected to face during a forum hosted by The State Chamber, an Oklahoma business and industry association.

House Democratic Leader Scott Inman and Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks both said their caucuses are ready to pass legislation ensuring Oklahoma complies with the federal REAL ID Act, an effort to make driver’s licenses less susceptible to counterfeit or forgery.

Speaker Jeff Hickman and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman both expressed optimism a solution can be reached.

“We have some members who are working on that,” said Hickman, R-Fairview. “There are some privacy concerns … but I think we can reach a solution.”

Without a fix, public safety officials have said Oklahomans could need a passport to board commercial flights and access some federal buildings and facilities once a federal extension granted to the state expires next fall.

The Democratic leaders both said there is no need to implement so-called “judicial reforms” that some conservative lawmakers, frustrated by decisions by state appellate courts, have called for.

“The system we have today was in direct response to the corruption and politicization of the judicial branch from years back,” said Inman, referring to a bribery scandal in the 1960s involving Supreme Court justices that led to changes in how judges are selected in Oklahoma. “Do we want to go back there just because the courts have made some decisions that we don’t necessarily like?”

Both Hickman and Bingman acknowledged there are members in the House and Senate who support changes to how judges are selected, but neither endorsed any of the pending proposals.

“Everybody you talk to has a different idea about what judicial reform means,” Hickman said. “Our job as leaders is to make sure we understand the potential implications of any changes that we might make.”

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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