March 17, 2015

Oklahomans Denied Valuable Legislation

[OKLAHOMA CITY, OK] The beginning of Oklahoma’s 55th Legislative Session has seen many issues appearing in national headlines, but rarely issues that Oklahomans want to see elected officials discussing.

The Oklahoma Legislature has spent countless hours debating items that don’t directly impact or address issues such as the $611 million budget hole, public education funding, poor teacher pay, teacher and school resource shortages, crumbling roads and bridges, criminal justice reform, and prison overcrowding, to name a few.

“The Republican legislature is overly preoccupied with talking about gays, marriage licenses, and attempting to legalize child abuse. Their refusal to deal with issues that Oklahomans are demanding answers for is yet another example of their complete lack of leadership to conduct business and pattern of  bad behavior,” said Wallace Collins, Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Oklahoma Democrats attempted to get legitimate legislation moved through this year, but numerous roadblocks by the Republican-led legislature were, once again, thrown up to prevent real progress. Small victories were made; however, sweeping improvements were continuously thwarted.

A few examples of legislation authored by Democrats that failed to make it past the Republican-controlled committees are:

  • HB1831 by Rep. Seneca Scott (D-Tulsa) would have allowed Oklahoma to receive $150 million to underwrite health-care services for Native Americans.
  • HB 1429 by Rep. Jerry McPeak (D-Warner) would have reduced the number of high-stakes tests.
  • HB1345 by Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City) would have made it illegal for an employer to refuse or terminate employment based on an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • HB 1571 by Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) would have required insurance policies to offer coverage for earthquake damage. According to geologists, Oklahoma experienced 5,418 earthquakes in 2014.
  • SB426 by Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City) would have given a procedure to determine if a piece of legislation could be in violation of the Constitution. Each year, numerous pieces of legislation are challenged in the Supreme Court costing the State millions in revenue.
  • SB87 by Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman) would have provided a cost of living increase for certain state employees.
  • SB651 by Sen. Randy Bass (D-Lawton) would have protected local economies impacted by tourism by requiring that the Department of Tourism and Recreation provide at least 60-days notice when there is to be a significant change in the park service or pending closure of a state park.

Oklahomans want to see meaningful legislation, but the Republican-controlled legislature has demonstrated that they are not interested in addressing the issues that directly affect their constituents and local business. Instead of focusing on the people of Oklahoma, the Republicans have continued with their standard rhetoric and national talking points; all the while, Oklahomans suffer.