OKLAHOMA CITY Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson said Wednesday that his first year as the leader of the Oklahoma State Senate was a qualified success.
The 2year veteran lawmaker said the First Session of the 9th Oklahoma Legislature, which ended Friday, produced a number of significant victories for the people of Oklahoma.
We did great things for early childhood education, passed an historic ban on smoking in public places, took steps to protect doctors and hospitals from rising malpractice insurance rates, and sent the governors education lottery proposal to a vote of the people, said Hobson, DLexington.
Lawmakers also came together in an unprecedented bipartisan manner to write a balanced state budget.
Ive always said that the hardest job in this building is writing the budget. This years budget was one of the most difficult the Legislature has ever had to write. But these tough times brought out the best in some of these extraordinary men and women I work with in the Legislature, and that allowed us to reach an unprecedented global budget agreement back in April, Hobson said.
The agreement, announced April , included not only House and Senate Democratic leaders and the governor, but also had support from the Republican leadership in both the House and Senate.
Hobson specifically credited firstyear Governor Brad Henry, House Speaker Larry Adair, Senate Appropriations Chairman Mike Morgan and Senate Minority Leader James A. Williamson for making bipartisanship work on this years budget.
But the .09 billion state budget is the best example of why he called the session only a qualified success, Hobson said.
The way all sides came together like never before to craft the budget made the process a success, but the cuts in state services that will occur in the coming fiscal year should not be considered a victory for anyone, Hobson said.
Because a majority of lawmakers refused to accept the true nature of the states budget crisis, lawmakers didnt do all they could to make the budget less painful, Hobson said.
I had hoped we would pass a major revenue measure to protect vital state services from the drastic budget cuts that were finalized today. Others in the Legislature didnt see things my way and as a result there wont be a family in our state that wont feel the effects of the double digit budget reductions suffered by most agencies, said Hobson.
Hobson also expressed regret that sweeping legislation aimed at rescuing the states failing horse racing industry and providing new revenue to fill the states budget gap by allowing electronic gaming at the states four parimutuel horse racing tracks and creating a gaming compact with Native American tribes isnt headed to the governor. Senate Bill 3 passed in the Senate by a 29 vote on Thursday but was never heard in the House Friday.
Saving our horse industry was one of my major goals and we worked hard on that legislation for most of the session. Im disappointed that we couldnt accomplish that goal and Im afraid we will be feeling the repercussions for years to come, Hobson said.