Editor’s note: This is one of a regular series of monthly columns titled “Oklahoma Now” by Governor Mary Fallin.
At the beginning of the 2011egislative session, I asked lawmakers to work with me to pass legislation that would bring more and better jobs to Oklahoma, cut the size and cost of government, and fight government overreach and unconstitutional mandates coming from Washington, D.C.
With the session now behind us and the end-of-term report cards coming in, I’m proud to say the legislative season was a great success. Lawmakers spent the last several months passing reform after reform – many of which I proposed in my State of the State address – helping to lay the foundations for long-term, sustainable job-growth. These reforms included:
· Comprehensive lawsuit reform and an ambitious rewrite of the state’s workers’ compensation laws, both of which will help to reduce costs for businesses and bring more jobs and investment into the state;
· A series of new education laws designed to boost student achievement, hold teachers and schools accountable for their performance, and make the Department of Education more responsive to the public;
· The creation of new tools, such as the Quick Action Closing Fund, to recruit and retain businesses and attract new jobs to Oklahoma.
In addition to these important job-creating measures, this session was also marked by a series of modernization and consolidation efforts that will save taxpayer dollars, right-size government agencies and deliver services to our citizens more efficiently. These efforts include:
· The consolidation of several agencies with complimentary functions into the Office of State Finance, with an estimated cost-savings in the millions;
· The restructuring and modernization of our state’s aging Internet Technology infrastructure, also with significant cost-savings for taxpayers;
· Reform efforts helping to ensure the long-term fiscal viability of our public pension systems.
Finally, conservative lawmakers worked together to protect the rights and values that make Oklahoma such a special place, and to resist encroachments and unconstitutional mandates from Washington. Efforts included:
· Returning $54 million of federal money to ensure that Oklahoma cannot be tied to or forced to implement President Obama’s unconstitutional health care law;
· Passage of key pro-life measures that mean Oklahomans will no longer be forced to subsidize abortion simply by purchasing health insurance, and that will ban abortions after 20 weeks (the time period in which an unborn child begins to feel pain);
· Expansion of gun rights and protections for gun owners.
Thanks to the reforms we are initiating this year, Oklahoma will continue its forward march, adding more jobs, benefiting from a leaner and more efficient government, and continuing to protect the values that make us such a special place. While there is always more to be done, it was a session that any conservative lawmaker can be proud of.
After making such tremendous progress in 2011, I’m looking forward to continue to push the envelope as we seek to build the strongest, most-prosperous state we can for our citizens.