Hello again, everybody! Preparations continue for the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature.
Last week was the deadline by which we could request a bill to be drafted. From this point forward, the only bills that will be introduced are those that have already been requested.
This week, we will get our first budget estimates for the fiscal year that begins next July 1. The budget for that fiscal year is what we will write during the 2009 session of the Legislature. Those first budget numbers will give us a glimpse of the national economic slowdown’s affect on Oklahoma’s economy.
As always, the budget will be job number one for the Legislature. Still, dozens of other issues will be on the table and we are starting to see what the some of the big issues will be.
Health care continues to be a concern for almost every Oklahoma family. Making health care more affordable for more Oklahomans is a top priority. The will be a variety of bills on this subject. If you believe some of the editorial pages in the state, our efforts to end insurance discrimination against autistic children will be one of the hot-button issues.
Also, what to do to keep Oklahoma’s energy industry strong will be near the top of everyone’s agenda. Much of Oklahoma’s budget strength comes from revenues generated by energy production. With declining energy prices, our challenge will be to encourage continued domestic production in Oklahoma. If we do not, then our budget is at even greater risk.
The issue of water will no doubt be a critical one for the entire state. Oklahoma is under the gun, so to speak, due to a federal lawsuit filed by a Texas group saying our moratorium against selling water out-of-state is unconstitutional. Our challenge is to ensure we protect Oklahoma’s future by balancing resources with our state’s needs over the next century.
I was taught in college by my political science professor Bruce Johnson that politics is the “authoritative allocation of value,” which is a fancy way of saying “who gets what, when and where.” What will guide me during this upcoming historic session is to ensure that every Oklahoma family has an opportunity to make a future that is better than our past.
There will be side issues to be sure. Some will be unable to resist the age-old political game of tossing so-called “wedge” issues out there to misdirect attention away from what is really important.
Even so, the focus must be on strengthening our state, its families and our economy. That is how we build a brighter future. It is that goal that has guided me during my six years as your senator. Nothing will ever change that for as long as I have the honor of serving you and all of Oklahoma in the state Senate.
Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.