State Sen. Charlie Laster announced this week that he has decided not to seek another term in the Oklahoma State Senate. Although the Shawnee Democrat would not have been term limited until 2016, Laster said it was time to refocus his attention on his family and his legal career.
Laster first came to the Senate in 2003 in a special election after Brad Henry was elected governor with two years remaining in his term. Laster was elected to his first full term in 2004 and again in 2008. During his legislative service, Laster served on multiple committees and served in key leadership positions, including Senate Democratic Leader, Co-Floor Leader of the Senate and Judiciary chair.
First of all, I want to say what a tremendous honor and privilege it has been to serve the citizens of Pottawatomie, Oklahoma and Cleveland counties at the State Capitol, Laster said. It has been an exciting and challenging undertaking from the very beginning, and Im very proud to have played a role in creating public policy aimed at improving the lives of all Oklahomans.
Laster was the Senates lawyer during the impeachment proceedings against former Insurance Commissioner, Carroll Fisher in 2004. He was also in the spotlight during another key historical event in the Senate. As a result of the 2006 elections, the Oklahoma State Senate was tied, with Democrats and Republicans each holding 24 seats. Laster served as Co-Floor Leader of the Senate during those two years.
It was a remarkable experience, because when you think about how passionate either side can be about a range of political issues, we could have had two years of acrimony and gridlock, Laster said. But that didnt happenwe all worked together to make sure that didnt happen, developing a power-sharing plan that ensured the peoples business would continue to be conducted in a professional and efficient manner. I will always be very proud of that.
Among his many legislative successes was a victims rights bill for students aimed at limiting contact between attackers and school-age victims of violent crime. He was also principal Senate author of a measure requiring all prenatal classes to teach pregnant women about the risks of drug or alcohol use during pregnancy. That measure, authored by Rep. Kris Steele in the House, also became law.
Laster also co-authored legislation ensuring the rights of schools to display national mottos, including E PLURIBUS UNUM (Out of Many, One) and IN GOD WE TRUST. He championed legislation seeking to limit sales to minors of household products containing chemicals or inhalants that an increasing amount of young people had used for hallucinogenic or intoxicating but dangerous effects. He also authored legislation to better protect citizens from the crime of identity theft.
This past session Laster introduced legislation authorizing a compact between the state, counties cities and tribal governments so that vehicle tag information could more easily be accessed by law enforcement. That measure was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.
Throughout his tenure, Laster was honored by childrens advocacy organizations, law enforcement and education organizations for his work in the Oklahoma State Senate. He also volunteered time in the Americas Legislators Back to School program to help students have a better understanding of state government and encourage their involvement as citizens.
Laster has a law practice in Shawnee, where he makes his home with his wife of 33 years, Dr. Kathy Laster, their daughter, Kara, age 18, and son Luke, age 15.
Our children were still very small when I first took the Oath of Office, and Im fortunate that my district was close enough to the State Capitol that I didnt have to be away from my family all week during session, Laster said. But at this point in my life, I want to turn my time and attention more fully to family and my law practice. Serving in the Senate has been the experience of a lifetime, and I will remain forever grateful for the opportunity. In fact I enjoyed the Senate so much, at some point on down the road I may just decide to come back for my final four years. You never know.
“This bill is a necessary and logical extension of the cooperative agreements and cross deputization of law enforcement officers in state, county, city and tribal law enforcement agencies. It will help facilitate the sharing of tag information between all of these entities. Doing so will help officers in the investigation of crimes and will be tremendously helpful in addressing Amber and Silver Alerts to find kidnapped or missing children and seniors,” said Barrett. “The Potawatomi Nation is grateful to Senator Laster for addressing this need and looking forward to assisting with the intergovernmental agreement.”
The bill was also supported by the Department of Public Safety.
“The passing and subsequent signing of Senate Bill 857 provides the Highway Patrol with another opportunity to fulfill its mission of protecting the public,” said Major Rusty Rhoades, legislative liaison for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “Given that there are multiple tribes that issue tags, there have been many times when troops were unable to run license plates in the middle of the night to check for stolen vehicles or wanted individuals. In future cooperatives with tribes, the Highway Patrol hopes to better identify vehicles on the roadway and enhance our public safety mission.”