Senator Holt’s First Column for the Bethany Tribune

Senator Holt’s first column ran this week in the Bethany Tribune.  Here is the text:

State Capitol Report

By Senator David Holt

February 11, 2011

Greetings, Tribune reader!  First of all, I want to thank you for the honor of representing you in the Oklahoma Senate.   Second, I want to thank the Tribune for this occasional opportunity to update you on what’s going in your name at your State Capitol.

Business got started in November, when your Tribune delegation was sworn-in.   Veteran legislators Rep. Sally Kern (R), Rep. Charles Key (R), and Sen. Cliff Branan (R) were joined by Rep. Elise Hall (R) and me.   We contributed to record Republican majorities of 32-16 in the Senate and 70-31 in the House, led by a new Senate President Pro Tempore and a new Speaker of the House.   Sen. Branan and I were elected to Senate Leadership.   Sen. Branan was also named chair of Energy, while Rep. Kern will chair Long-Term Care and Senior Services, and Rep. Key will chair Insurance.

The next two months were occupied by the process of drafting and introducing legislation.   On January 10th, we were joined by the new statewide officials, all Republicans and led by Governor Mary Fallin.  Our former Tribune legislators Glenn Coffee and Mike Thompson did not go far, as both accepted positions in the offices of new statewide officials.

As you read this, we have just begun the state’s 53rd Legislature in earnest, kicked off with Governor Fallin’s State of the State address this past Monday.   As the Governor related, an unavoidable task faces us.   There is a fiscal year 2012 budget shortfall of more than $500 million.   To address this, the Governor proposes to cut the budgets of most agencies three to five percent, along with the consolidation of others. 

Beyond that challenge, the Legislature, with its new faces and new perspectives, has an opportunity to set a different course for our state.  This is the first year of a new era, and if I can generalize, I would say that the Republican leaders have chosen to focus on two proactive priorities first – improving the business climate and reforming the education system. 

Improving the business climate likely means serious attempts at tort and workers comp reform.  Reforming the education system likely means a reconsideration of the bureaucratic and labor structure that underpins our system.   I expect that education reform will be a multi-year focus of the Republican leadership.

Of course, the legislative process is organic and there will be many other important policy discussions, including pension reform, improving the health of Oklahomans, government modernization, corrections reform, tax relief, and sustainment of Oklahoma values.   I expect to see new thinking in areas that have not witnessed reform in decades.

Another major task will be redistricting, which occurs every decade.   By the end of this session, the Legislature will have redrawn the House, Senate, Congressional, and judicial districts.  I will be serving as the Vice-Chair of Redistricting in the Senate, responsible for Central Oklahoma. 

Some of my other legislative focus will be on two bills I have authored to return the power of the purse to you, the taxpayer.   The first is Senate Bill 70, which will lower the Oklahoma income tax rate to 4.25 percent.   The second is Senate Bill 826, which will end the process of “binding arbitration,” put into place by union lobbyists in 1994.   “Binding arbitration” takes the power to spend local tax dollars away from the taxpayers and their elected representatives and places it in the hands of arbitrators, usually out-of-state attorneys.  My bill puts the taxpayers back in charge, and is strongly supported by the local stewards of our tax dollars in Bethany and Warr Acres.

As the session sprints towards sine die on Memorial Day weekend, I encourage you to express your thoughts to myself and the rest of your Tribune delegation.   You can find our contact information at www.oksenate.gov or www.okhouse.gov.  And of course the doors of your offices at the Capitol are always open to you.  I know each of us takes our duty to you very seriously.  We are grateful for the opportunity you have given us to make our community a better place.

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