Vol. LIV No. 4
April 2019

GOP floor leader; Lisa Billy completing Oklahoma House term

CONTRIBUTED BY Tom Bolitho, Media Relations.

Lisa Johnson Billy is “termed out.”

That is the Oklahoma vernacular indicating a state legislator has completed 12 years in office. The state imposes term limits on both state senators and representatives.

State Rep. Billy (R-Purcell) - the first Chickasaw, first Native, first woman to ever represent Oklahoma’s District 42 – sees her service to the people of her district come to a close this year.

“What an incredible opportunity to have served all 12 years in the House of Representatives,” Rep. Billy said. “It has truly been an honor to serve.”

Rep. Billy’s list of legislative accomplishments is impressive. However, she may be most proud of founding the first Oklahoma Native American caucus at the state capitol. Support for the bipartisan caucus was, she said, minimal at first.

“Our idea was to establish a Native American caucus that included members of both parties and fostered good working relationships,” Rep. Billy said. “It was slow going at first. But it took off and is, I believe, very successful, particularly at highlighting issues of important to Indian people.”

Along the way, Rep. Billy has served in the House as assistant whip, assistant floor leader, and now is House majority floor leader.

Her leadership skills are apparent, not only through the offices she holds, but through the legislation she has authored and carried through the process.

She was author of the bill that reduced state control over tribal housing authorities. She also authored a bill that clarified the procedures for tribal law enforcement when state crimes are committed on tribal land.

She found that important tribal documents, including treaties and other agreements, were being improperly stored and, as a consequence, deteriorating. She wrote the bill that ensured proper housing of important tribal documents at the Oklahoma History Center.

Education and tribal culture are important to her. Rep. Billy’s legislation guaranteed tribal languages would be included as part of Oklahoma’s core curriculum for language. As a result of the bill, students may now take a tribal language as an alternative to Spanish or French.

She sponsored a House Resolution that honors the Indian code talkers of World War II. She invited families of Chickasaw and Choctaw code talkers to the House to be honored. That day turned out to be a big challenge as Rep. Billy realized a number of House members were considering voting against the resolution.

“It had taken me many years of building trusting relationships with my colleagues in order to bring this resolution up for a vote,” she said. “There were members of the House who had not committed to the resolution, and there was talk they were going to object.”

She said she prayed about the situation and asked God for favor.

“I wanted unanimous support,” she said. “Many of the people who came to honor their grandfathers were elderly.”

She realized some of her colleagues simply were not aware of the legacy of the code talkers. She spent the day visiting and revisiting other House members. In the end, she met with success and the House voted unanimously for the resolution.

“I personally thanked all the members after the vote,” she said. “I learned this kind of leadership from Gov. Anoatubby. He has taught me by example to love and walk in forgiveness, to be respectful and honorable.”

Rep. Billy, her husband Phillip, have three children. Rep. Billy is a former Chickasaw tribal legislator and the daughter of Chickasaw elder and former tribal legislator Frank Johnson, Sr.