Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, commented on the close of the 2016 legislative session:
“Much focus was rightfully placed on the state budget this year, as the state grappled with a historic shortfall of $1.3 billion. At the start of the session, the Senate said it wanted to protect our core services like education and health care from devastating budget cuts. Like most budgets I’ve voted on in my time in the Senate, this budget isn’t perfect and there are things the Senate wanted to do that we couldn’t because of the financial crisis. Despite the historic budget shortfall brought on in part by the economic slump gripping the energy industry, we passed a budget that closes the shortfall while avoiding extreme cuts and worst-case scenarios in our schools, our hospitals and nursing homes.
“This year, we also made some tough, but necessary choices to reform special tax breaks and budgetary reforms that will end the reliance on one-time sources of money to pay for recurring expenses in the state budget. This puts the state budget on much more solid financial footing and signals that Oklahoma’s a stable place to invest.
“Beyond the budget agreement, the Senate this year enacted several important public policy reforms. The Senate worked to eliminate the end-of-instruction exams to free up teachers and students from high-stakes testing so they can focus on classroom learning. We helped Oklahoma families whose children struggle with autism by making sure their insurance plans cover autistic children.
“We passed key criminal justice reforms that will protect public safety, give nonviolent offenders a better chance at rehabilitation, and ultimately ease prison overcrowding saving the state millions of dollars that can be used instead on priorities like education and mental health services.
“We strengthened existing laws in order to protect the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and we gave judges the ability to consider post-traumatic stress disorder as a mitigating factor when making sentencing decisions for veterans.
“Oklahoma’s roads will be safer because of a bill we passed to close a loophole that allowed repeat drunk drivers to get multiple DUI convictions in various jurisdictions without being held accountable. And we ensured the funding was made available to restore and repair the state Capitol building.
“I want to thank my fellow members for all their hard work during an extremely challenging legislative session. Good things were accomplished despite the difficulties that were faced.
“I want to thank my constituents for giving me the opportunity to be their voice for 12 years here at the state Capitol, and to the members of the Senate who elected me to serve as leader of this chamber for the past six years. It has been an honor and a privilege.”
—Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa