(Oklahoma City, Okla.) District 33 Rep. Lee Denney’s column:
The Republican majority caucus in the Oklahoma House of Representatives announced a legislative agenda in January. The agenda aimed at helping grow our state’s economy, prosper our citizens and protect our rights.
On the first day of the session, Gov. Mary Fallin outlined a similar plan in her annual “State-of-the-State Address,” and I was pleased to see the governor propose an increase in K-12 education spending, workers’ compensation reform and a reduction in the state income tax. It seems the governor and the House Republicans are in agreement on many of the concerns she addressed. I am looking forward to working together with my fellow representatives to effectively work on creating good, conservative policies during this session.
Moving into our 2013 agenda, the House Republicans are looking to focus on what we decided were the key issues- income tax reduction, major workers’ compensation and public pension system reform and education funding.
Families should be able to keep their hard-earned money in order to put food on their table. This issue is not only an economic one, but a moral one as well and should always be a top priority for the representatives.
Reforming our expensive, inefficient workers’ compensation system will lower costs for business, ensure that workers get proper medical care and get back on the job faster and incentivize new companies to relocate to our state. We’re hoping to find a balance so that employees are helped efficiently and fairly, while business owners can cut down expensive costs from the workers’ compensation system. When business owners can put more of their money back into their businesses, they can innovate, expand and hire new employees.
Our focus should always be on our children and the education that they receive, and the best way to improve outcomes is by raising the bar for our students, schools and teachers. House Republicans want to return more control over education decisions back to the local communities and push back against federal education mandates that inhibit our ability to implement more effective reforms.
I was also pleased to see the governor call on the legislature to take a hard look at our state assets and reduce inefficiencies. House Speaker T.W. Shannon has proposed a policy that would consolidate the six existing asset boards into a single board authorized to evaluate state assets’ based upon their most urgent needs. The board would have the ability to liquidate the state’s most underutilized assets. The state would then take those revenues and combine it with a permanent pay-as-you-go funding stream, rather than issuing bonds, to repair and maintain our most important assets, such as the state Capitol building.
Finally, the House recently passed new rules for the 2013 session that will help continue to promote transparency in the chamber. Two years ago, the House required conference committees to actually meet, provide notice to the public and record votes, which was a seismic shift in practice after more than 100 years of backroom deals. This year, the House voted to change the process for determining which bills are heard on the House floor.
Previously, the House Majority Floor Leader had absolute discretion regarding which bills to place on the calendar for consideration. This year, we have created a House Calendar Committee comprised of both Democrats and Republicans to determine which bills will get placed on the calendar.
Although there is still more progress that can be made, bringing more voices to the table is definitely a step in the right direction, ensuring more fairness to the process and more accountability to the citizens.
Please feel free to contact me at (405) 557-7304 or write me at State Capitol Office 441, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.