Oklahoma City – State Senate Republicans unveiled their agenda for the 2004 legislative session, saying the Legislature’s top priorities in 2004 should focus on strengthening Oklahoma’s economy, improving Oklahoma’s education system, defending Oklahoma’s traditional values, and promoting rural economic development – while holding the line on taxes and spending.
“Our bold agenda shows that Senate Republicans are ready to lead and are prepared to meet the challenges facing Oklahoma. We hope the Democrat majority and Gov. Brad Henry will put aside partisanship and join us in making Oklahoma the most pro-growth, pro-jobs state in the region,” stated Senate Republican Floor Leader James A. Williamson, R-Tulsa.
“If we want to improve pay for teachers and state employees, if we want to improve roads and health care, then we have to grow Oklahoma’s tax base by attracting new employers and jobs to our state. That’s why jobs and the economy are priority number one on the Senate GOP agenda,” stated Assistant Republican Floor Leader Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.
To help create private sector job growth and improve Oklahoma’s economy, the Senate GOP has proposed comprehensive lawsuit reform, workers compensation reform, job-creating tax relief, dedicating more road user fees to state highways, and making private health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible.
Senate Republicans also are seeking to defend Oklahoma values by supporting right-to-life legislation, allowing the display of the Ten Commandments and the national motto (“In God we trust”) in public buildings, and providing constitutional protections for the sanctity of traditional marriage from activist judges who might seek to force same sex unions on Oklahomans.
“Protecting traditional values is very important to the people of Oklahoma, so I hope our colleagues in the Senate Democrat leadership will give these proposals a fair hearing – and not try to sweep them under the rug as they have in the past,” Williamson stated.
The Senate GOP is seeking to improve public education in Oklahoma by protecting teachers and administrators from frivolous lawsuits, increasing local control of education, reducing unfunded state mandates on local school districts, and demanding accountability and improved student achievement. The Senate Republican caucus also supports a proposal to pay 100 percent of teachers’ health insurance premiums.
Senate Republicans also proposed to increase salaries for corrections officers and state troopers, to adequately fund public safety departments, and to oppose attempts by liberals to pass an “early release” program for criminals in prison.
The Senate GOP program also helps spur economic growth in rural Oklahoma. The plan includes protecting landowners from frivolous lawsuits, eliminating the death tax, investing in new roads and highways to make rural areas more accessible, and providing matching state assistance for local rural economic development efforts.