... from the State Senate

Pivotal Senate Rules Committee reviewing nearly 500 bills

Senator Sean Burrage writes:

On Monday Feb. 5, the First Session of the 51st Oklahoma Legislature commenced at noon as Governor Brad Henry laid out his vision for our state’s second century. As I listened to the Governor give his state of the state address, I couldn’t help but get a lump in my throat as I contemplated the enormity of the moment. Finally, it was time to actually begin the job for which you have entrusted me. And that I am to perform this role in such a beautiful setting as our state capitol building with its majestic new dome, well, as my son Truman might say, “It’s awesome.”

When I took my newly assigned seat in the Senate chamber, I was reminded of my first day at Antlers High School. My wife had me listen to a song recently titled “High School Never Ends.” There is a lot of truth in that, even at the state capitol. The hallways are full of people chatting before the day’s session begins, roll is taken, and the most recently elected are referred to as freshmen. Like that first day of high school, I was aware as I sat down at my desk that this was the start of four important years; it truly hit home more than ever before what an honor it is to serve as your voice in the State Senate.

Senator Mike Schulz of Altus and I co-chair the Senate Committee on Rules. Close to 500 bills have been sent to our committee and it will be up to Senator Schulz and me to determine which bills are actually placed on the Senate agenda. I am ready for this challenge and will stand my ground to ensure that any piece of legislation that makes it through this committee will make a positive impact on the lives of the people in Oklahoma. I expect there will be battles, but battles can be good when they force people to stand up for their beliefs. After all, that’s the democratic process – the best form of government on earth. As my colleagues and I navigate our way through the uncharted waters of an evenly split State Senate, I will keep in mind what Governor Henry told us during his State of the State address: there is no glory in gridlock.

If you have any questions on a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or by writing me with your concerns at: Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 529-B State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

... from the State House

House to consider Hoskin’s Board of Corrections videoconferencing bill

State Representative Chuck Hoskin writes:

“The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a beginning it has been! The first week of Session started off with a flurry of activity. After Governor Henry delivered his State of the State address, we began the process of reviewing bills in committees. We’ll spend the next several weeks hearing bills and voting to determine which ones will be heard before the full House.

I was very encouraged by Governor Henry’s State of the State address. He urged bipartisanship and put forth many great ideas. Some of his proposals include: Access to cheaper prescription drugs; increasing health insurance coverage for employees of small businesses; addressing the needs of uninsured children; increasing funding for OHLAP, a program that helps pay tuition for college students; and investing in bio-fuels and alternative energy research. I look forward to working with the Governor to make sure we move the best ideas forward.

This year there are 1,195 bills to consider before the March 15 deadline. If a bill has not been heard by then, it will be killed for the session. For this reason some of the most important work happens in committee meetings where a bill’s fate is often determined. At present, one of my proposed bills has been passed out of committee and is waiting to be presented on the floor of the House. It deals with the ability of the Oklahoma Board of Corrections to conduct meetings by teleconference and videoconference if they desire. At present 14 other Oklahoma entities have this authority. The bill can provide more public access and is a potential cost savings to the citizens of Oklahoma which is especially important to District 6 because of the large Forensic Center located in Vinita.

Please contact me in Oklahoma City If you have any questions or comments by calling 1-800-522-8502 or write to me at: Representative Chuck Hoskin, State Capitol Building, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 510-B, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. It is my pleasure to serve you in Oklahoma’s House.

... from the State House

Efforts to squelch

student credit card debt meets opposition

State Representative Ben Sherrer writes:

This has been a very busy week with the commencement of the legislative session. Admittedly, I wasn’t excited to leave Margo, Bennett, Samuel and Delanie this week. But once I arrived at the Capitol, it felt good to be back in business. The Governor gave his State of the State address and we started hearing bills in committees. We’ll spend the next few weeks hearing bills and deciding which ones are worthy enough to go before the full House.

Last week I wrote about a bill I am carrying that seeks to restrict the release of student information for commercial purposes. Geared to slow down credit card and other commercial solicitations on our students, HB 1307 has many powerful opponents and I am working hard to keep the bill alive. Although it passed the subcommittee and committee this week, the title was stricken on the bill. Without going into detail on the procedural ramifications, the stricken title almost guarantees this important bill will be killed. I will not give up but will continue to work hard against entities that put profits above people.

Governor Henry’s State of the State Address was very encouraging. He urged the legislature to follow his example of bi-partisanship and set forth many great ideas. Some of his proposals include: cheaper prescription drugs through re-importation (now an annual issue); increasing the scope of the Insure Oklahoma program (provides health insurance assistance for small business employees); increasing the scope of Oklahoma’s premier college access program, OHLAP (I am authoring a bill with Senator Burrage to increase the household income eligibility to $75,000); and increased funding for bio-fuels research (which could be Oklahoma’s new fortune)

This week I was visited by board members from Northeast Rural Electric, Buck Gay and Jim Wade. On the Rose Day Pro-Life Celebration I was pleased to see Robin Pitts, Jamie Clark, Shelby Sonora and their children, all from Inola. It was also exciting to have Chouteau fifth grader Cody Moore at the Capitol to be honored for winning the OERB Poetry contest.

If you are planning a trip to the Capitol, please contact my office in advance so I can make plans to meet with you. Likewise, please contact me with any questions or comments you have regarding any legislation you hear about this session. I can be reached at 1-800-522-8502 or bensherrer@okhouse.gov. Until next week, God bless you.