2008 Legislative Agenda Focuses on Opportunity and Responsibility
With one week to go until the first legislative session of Oklahoma’s second 100 years of statehood begins, Senate Democratic leaders unveiled their “Vision for Oklahoma” focusing on policies that will increase opportunities and foster responsibility for all Oklahomans.
“Oklahomans want a government that works for them—a government that works across party lines to bring greater opportunities and promotes responsibility,” President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan said. “This legislative session, the Senate Democratic caucus will fight everyday to bring about effective policies that make a real difference in the lives of our people.”
Democratic Floor Leader and President Pro Tempore Designate Charlie Laster (D-Shawnee) pointed to policies that will help grow Oklahoma as top priority for the Senate Democratic Caucus including the following priorities:
Greater Opportunities for Higher Education
Greater Healthcare Opportunities and Insurance Reform
Responsible Tax Cuts, and
Responsible Investments for Oklahoma’s Future.
“Focusing on these important priorities in the upcoming session, Senate Democrats hope to give all Oklahomans the tools they need to achieve a brighter future,” Laster said. “We have a responsibility to those who elected us to be their voice in the Senate to fight for policies that matter to them, rather than focus on policies that help the powerful special interests that roam these capitol halls.”
Laster said in a year when budgeting will be tight it will be more important than ever to prioritize investments that will help grow Oklahoma’s economy.
“Facing a sluggish national economy, Oklahoma needs to be pro-active in creating policies that will continue the growth we have seen in recent years,” Laster said. “That includes ensuring we are investing wisely in education to grow our workforce, creating policies that increase access to affordable healthcare to lower the number of uninsured in our state and investing in infrastructure improvements across our state.”
State Senator Kenneth Corn, Co-Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Public Safety and Judiciary and a Democrat from Poteau said keeping Oklahomans safe is one of governments greatest responsibilities.
“It is no secret that in previous years Oklahoma’s corrections system has faced tough times with prison overcrowding and staff shortages,” he said. “We intend to use the recently released independent audit as a roadmap to ensure we are making necessary changes and wise investments to help keep all our citizens safe.”
State Senator Debbe Leftwich said in this election year, the Senate Democratic Caucus wants to rise above the political posturing to help move Oklahoma forward.
“We cannot allow an election year to stop us from doing what is right for the people of this state,” the Democrat from South Oklahoma City said. “Our vision for Oklahoma includes making certain that government is responsible to the people, that insurance companies are responsible to their policy holders and that Oklahomans are displaying personal responsibility to help themselves move into greatness.”
Senator Morgan (D-Stillwater) said he will continue to ensure Oklahoma’s historic power-sharing agreement remains intact and that the people’s business is conducted in a manner that will make all Oklahomans proud.
“As we begin the first session of Oklahoma’s second 100 years, we have the opportunity to make tremendous progress in this state,” he said. “We are committed to making the tough decisions required to bring Oklahoma a government that works for them.”
Our Democratic Vision for Oklahoma: Opportunity and Responsibility
1. Corporate Responsibility
Enforce the law on employers who are knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. By holding corporations responsible for their actions in regards to employing illegal immigrants we are getting to the heart of the illegal immigration problem.
2. Greater Opportunity for Higher Education
All Oklahoma students, regardless of their ability to pay, should have the opportunity to realize their dream of getting a college education. Offering qualified Oklahoma high school graduates the opportunity to attend a college tuition free will give many students that opportunity they might not otherwise have had. It will increase the number of college graduates in our state and boost our economy by offering better jobs and higher wages for working Oklahomans throughout the state.
* SB 2164 by Senator Randy Bass creates the OHLAP Enhancement Act, includes fees and books for students receiving OHLAP scholarship.
* SB 2020 by Senator Kenneth Corn creates the Second Century Promise Act modifies eligibility for OHLAP.
* SB 530 by Senator Sean Burrage increases OHLAP income eligibility to $75,000.
3. Health Care Opportunity and Insurance Reform
We will support policies to make insurance affordable and effective for Oklahomans, including a comprehensive patient’s bill of rights. Powerful insurance companies must meet their responsibilities to Oklahoma families rather than continuing the recent trend of record profits.
*SB 2114 by Senator Jim Wilson establishes a Patient’s Bill of Rights.
*SB 1521 by Senator Andrew Rice creates “Steffanie’s Law” aimed at increasing healthcare options for patients involved in clinical trials. It also requires insurance companies to cover costs of services through premiums already paid by the insured.
*SB 2190 by Senator Charlie Laster reestablishes the Board for Property and Casualty Insurance Rates and is designed to help stop arbitrary insurance rate increases and practices.
4. Responsible Tax Cuts
The only tax cuts that should be considered are those that help working and middle-class families such as cutting the grocery tax or eliminating taxes working Oklahomans pay on their overtime wages.
*SB 1153 by Senator Jay Paul Gumm establishes the Freedom From Hunger Act to eliminate the taxes Oklahomans pay when buying groceries.
*SB 1132 by Senator Kenneth Corn eliminates the taxes Oklahomans pay on their overtime wages.
5. Responsible Investments for Oklahoma’s Future
DOC Funding—We will use the audit as a road map to keep Oklahoma families safe from those who prey on them.
Roads and bridges funding—Safe roads and bridges are critical to Oklahoma’s economic future and public safety. We will support responsible funding to help make our roads and bridges safe for Oklahoma families.
Teacher Pay Raises—We must keep the promise we made to Oklahoma teachers to raise their pay to the regional average and we must do this without condition. Once we have met our responsibility of raising every Oklahoma teacher’s salary to the regional average, we can address a merit based teacher pay plan that is locally controlled and has community support.
*Legislation dealing with investments for our future will be assigned bill numbers during the appropriation and budgeting process over the course of the legislative session.