As lawmakers entered the next to last day of the Second Session of the 49th Oklahoma Legislature, the leader of the State Senate Thursday morning proclaimed this session as the most successful in his 26 years of legislative service.
“We have addressed in a positive way more significant issues in this session than in any other since I first came here in February 1979,” Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson said. “We’ve given the people of Oklahoma the chance to rescue our state’s ailing horse racing industry and regulate tribal gaming for the first time in history.
“We’ve sent to the voters a tobacco tax and health care proposal that will dramatically improve the health of Oklahomans by increasing the availability of medical treatment for the working poor; by creating and sustaining a statewide trauma care network; and by establishing a long-overdue cancer research and treatment center.
“We’ve fully funded the individual health insurance premiums for our public school teachers and agreed to a plan to bring their salaries up to the regional average over the next four years.
“State employees are going to get a much-needed raise over the next two years and our highway patrol troopers and other state law enforcement officers are going to see increases in their paychecks, as well.
“And last night an unprecedented 23-member Senate-House Conference Committee concluded six weeks of open public meetings by passing out a landmark tort reform proposal that will ensure the availability of health care to all Oklahomans.
“It’s been a great year, the most successful session in my 26 years here at the Capitol.”
Hobson praised Governor Brad Henry and Speaker Larry Adair for providing the leadership that made the success of the session possible.
“When the leaders of the state, the Governor, the Speaker and President Pro Tem of the Senate, are on the same page and are working together, you can do dramatic things for the people of our state – anything is possible,” Hobson said.
Hobson also offered praise for the members of his leadership team in the Senate, specifically Majority Floor Leader Ted Fisher, D-Sapulpa; Appropriations Chairman Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater; and Appropriations Vice-Chairman Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee.
“Without the work of these three men, we wouldn’t have accomplished all of the successes we enjoyed this year. A leader is only as good as his members and I remain convinced that the Oklahoma Senate is the finest institution in our state. I am proud of each and every one of the 48 men and women who make up this body. I am both humbled and proud to be their leader,” Hobson said.
The Senate leader also extended plaudits to Senate Majority Leader James A. Williamson and his leadership team.
“We don’t always agree about what’s best for our state, but Senator Williamson is extremely knowledgeable and is, without question, a man of his word. I have always said that the two most important things you have out here are how much you know and your word,” Hobson said.
The final days of the session are different this year, Hobson said, because 14 members of the Senate are being forced from office by term limits.
“We’re going to lose 273 years of combined legislative experience when the gavel falls on Friday. These men and women will be missed. They have each served their districts with honor and conviction and I have been proud to serve along side all of them,” Hobson said.