Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
By State Rep. Josh Cockroft

I would like to begin this holiday column by thanking the constituents who have elected me to represent them at our state Capitol. I am constantly honored and humbled by your trust. Lawmakers will soon meet again for the legislative session in February and we have already been busy preparing ourselves.

House republicans attended a caucus meeting in which we discussed the details of our party’s agenda for the 2012 legislative session. Although we are all conservatives, each of us represent districts that vary in their priorities. We caucus together to try and resolve these differences so that we do not have to spend as much time debating amongst ourselves during the session.

We are in the process of filing legislation for the 2012 legislative session. The first step is to file bills without detailed legal language. Then, we consult with our legal staff to ensure the appropriate legal jargon is used to convey our intent. Laws are open to scrutiny and interpretation by Oklahoma’s judicial branch so it’s very important that we get the language just right.

I am looking forward to the challenges of the 2012 session. I believe that there is the political willpower to begin the process of phasing out the income tax. I will begin running my regular column again in January to keep you informed on what your lawmakers are doing.

The military men and women who protect our liberties and provide for our safety must regularly forgo the comforts of this holiday season. Firefighters, emergency responders and members of law enforcement also regularly work on Christmas to ensure the safety of their communities. I would like to thank you for your service and your protection.

I wish everyone a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

Governor Mary Fallin Wishes Oklahomans a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement wishing Oklahomans a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season:
“The Christmas and holiday season is a special and wonderful time of year. I am looking forward to spending the next few days with my family, celebrating the meaning of Christmas, and reflecting on the many wonderful gifts bestowed on us by God. I want to wish all Oklahomans a Merry Christmas and a wonderful, joyous holiday season on behalf of my entire family.” 
Note:  The Governor’s office will be closed on Monday, December 26 and Tuesday, December 27 in observance of the Christmas holiday. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Task Force Endorses Tax Credit Transparency, Pre-Approval Process


OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the Task Force on State Tax Credits and Economic Incentives voted today to require greater tax-credit transparency and mandatory pre-approval for those seeking tax credits.
            Those recommendations, along with several other reforms endorsed at previous meetings, will now be presented to the governor and legislative leaders.
            “There is a general consensus here that says tax incentives that create real, lasting jobs are worthy, while those that fail that basic test are not,” said state Rep. David Dank, an Oklahoma City Republican who chairs the task force.
            In calling for greater transparency, Dank noted that it had become clear that until recently “few members of the Legislature had even the dimmest concept of how many tax credits we had on the books, how much they cost or even where they were going. The taxpayers certainly didn’t either.”
            He endorsed a system of reporting that will ensure that “everyone involved sees and knows exactly what is going on and what is at stake, down to a dollar-by-dollar accounting of where these credits and incentives are going and what they are achieving.”
            In calling for a pre-approval process, Dank noted that the current system for obtaining many tax credits seems “to be almost automatic” with no future cross-checking for re-approval process for recipients.
            “If I go down to buy a car this afternoon, it doesn’t matter that I bought one ten or twenty years ago,” Dank said. “I’m going to have to be pre-approved before I drive that care off the lot. The same rules should apply to tax incentives.”
            The task force voted to include both recommendations in their final report.
            The group has previously endorsed elimination of transferable tax credits and called for mandatory fiscal impact reports on all tax credits, caps on tax credits, annual audits of tax credit programs, routine analysis of each credit’s effectiveness at permanent job creation, and expiration dates for all tax credit programs with the option for legislative re-authorization.
            The group also endorsed a prohibition on hearing tax-credit bills during the final hectic days of the legislative session.
            Although elimination or restriction of many tax credits programs will likely draw strong opposition from the groups that have benefited from them, Dank urged lawmakers to consider the bigger picture.
            “Starting right now, remind yourself every day that the only lobbyist that counts is the people who elected us,” Dank said. “They may not hang around in the halls here at the Capitol, but they are here in spirit.”
            The Task Force on State Tax Credits and Economic Incentives’ final report will be submitted to legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin by Dec. 31. The report will be used to craft legislation for the 2012 legislative session.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Governor Mary Fallin Comments on Certified Revenue Figures

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement on the Oklahoma Board of Equalization certified revenue figures. The governor will have $6.5 billion to craft her FY 2013 budget, an increase of $120.3 million over the previous year.
 “The numbers certified by the Board of Equalization today indicate that tax revenues are increasing as Oklahoma’s economy continues its rebound from the national recession. That’s the good news. The loss of one time funding sources, however, means the state is currently facing an estimated budget shortfall of $150 million. While that number may change, the bottom line is that next year’s budget will be flat at best. Moving into 2013, state agencies should redouble their modernization and efficiency efforts to ensure they are maximizing the value of their appropriated funds and saving taxpayer dollars.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fallin Praises New Plan to Reduce Prescription Drug Costs for HealthChoice Members

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin applauded an action taken today by the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board (OSEEGIB) that will save taxpayer dollars and reduce prescription drug costs for thousands of consumers in Oklahoma. The plan was originally submitted by the Pharmacy Providers of Oklahoma (PPOk) as a way to reduce prescription drug costs while retaining a level playing field between local independent pharmacies, chains and mail service pharmacies. Total savings are estimated at $13.1 million per year for the state, as well as a total of $19.8 million in total savings for the 163,000 thousand prescription drug consumers currently enrolled in Health Choice plans.

Under the new proposal, Oklahoma pharmacists will offer deeper discounts on all drugs for Health Choice Plans resulting in savings to the plan and the members, which include many teachers, state employees, retirees, including all Medicare members, and their dependents. The new plan will result in an estimated 10% reduction in total prescription drug costs for HealthChoice members.

“Today’s agreement is a great example of how government can work with the private sector to find ways to save taxpayer dollars, lower the cost of health care, and support our local businesses,” Fallin said. “I applaud both OSEEGIB and our Oklahoma pharmacists for reaching this agreement and cooperating together on this complex and important issue.”

PPOk CEO Lonny Wilson also praised the new plan.

“OSEEGIB’s decision to accept the Community Pharmacy Proposal is a tremendous win for the Plan, the Participants, the State of Oklahoma, and Community Retail Pharmacies,” Wilson said.  “It provides savings to the plan, lowers total copayments and allows participants to choose the pharmacy of their choice without incurring copayment penalties.  Allowing 90 day dispensing of maintenance drugs from hundreds of community pharmacies provides optimum convenience and access to the many additional services provided by Oklahoma pharmacies.   Our thanks go out to OSEEGIB board members and management for putting Oklahomans first.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!


My Friends,

As the Thanksgiving holiday is now upon us, I wanted to share a powerful article writen by David Barton of WallBuilders about the history and meaning of Thanksgiving. It is lengthy, but well worth it in my opinion. May God richly bless you!
From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
Josh Cockroft



The tradition introduced by European Americans of Thanksgiving as a time to focus on God and His blessings dates back well over four centuries in America. For example, such thanksgivings occurred in 1541 at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas with Coronado and 1,500 of his men;  in 1564 at St. Augustine, Florida with French Huguenot (Protestant) colonists;  in 1598 at El Paso, Texas with Juan de OƱate and his expedition;  in 1607 at Cape Henry, Virginia with the landing of the Jamestown settlers;  in 1619 at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia;  (and many other such celebrations). But it is primarily from the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving celebration of 1621 that we derive the current tradition of Thanksgiving Day.
The Pilgrims set sail for America on September 6, 1620, and for two months braved the harsh elements of a storm-tossed sea. Upon disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they held a prayer service and then hastily began building shelters; however, unprepared for such a harsh New England winter, nearly half of them died before spring.  Emerging from that grueling winter, the Pilgrims were surprised when an Indian named Samoset approached them and greeted them in their own language, explaining to them that he had learned English from fishermen and traders. A week later, Samoset returned with a friend named Squanto, who lived with the Pilgrims and accepted their Christian faith. Squanto taught the Pilgrims much about how to live in the New World, and he and Samoset helped forge a long-lasting peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. Pilgrim Governor William Bradford described Squanto as “a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . and never left [us] till he died.”
That summer, the Pilgrims, still persevering in prayer and assisted by helpful Indians,  reaped a bountiful harvest.  As Pilgrim Edward Winslow (later to become the Governor) affirmed, “God be praised, we had a good increase of corn”; “by the goodness of God, we are far from want.”  The grateful Pilgrims therefore declared a three-day feast in December 1621 to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends  – America’s first Thanksgiving Festival. Ninety Wampanoag Indians joined the fifty Pilgrims for three days of feasting (which included shellfish, lobsters, turkey, corn bread, berries, deer, and other foods), of play (the young Pilgrim and Wampanoag men engaged in races, wrestling matches, and athletic events), and of prayer. This celebration and its accompanying activities were the origin of the holiday that Americans now celebrate each November.
However, while the Pilgrims enjoyed times of prosperity for which they thanked God, they also suffered extreme hardships. In fact, in 1623 they experienced an extended and prolonged drought. Knowing that without a change in the weather there would be no harvest and the winter would be filled with death and starvation, Governor Bradford called the Pilgrims to a time of prayer and fasting to seek God’s direct intervention. Significantly, shortly after that time of prayer – and to the great amazement of the Indian who witnessed the scene – clouds appeared in the sky and a gentle and steady rain began to fall. As Governor Bradford explained:
It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in abundance, as that ye earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith, which did so apparently revive and quicken ye decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made ye Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing.
The drought had been broken; the fall therefore produced an abundant harvest; there was cause for another thanksgiving. The Pilgrim practice of designating an official time of Thanksgiving spread into neighboring colonies and became an annual tradition.  And just as those neighboring colonies followed the Pilgrims’ example of calling for days of thanksgiving, so, too, did they adopt their practice of calling for a time of prayer and fasting. The New England Colonies therefore developed a practice of calling for a day of prayer and fasting in the spring, and a day of prayer and thanksgiving in the fall.
The Thanksgiving celebrations so common throughout New England did not begin to spread southward until the American Revolution, when Congress issued eight separate national Thanksgiving Proclamations. (Congress also issued seven separate proclamations for times of fasting and prayer, for a total of 15 official prayer proclamations during the American Revolution. )
America’s first national Thanksgiving occurred in 1789 with the commencement of the federal government. According to the Congressional Record for September 25 of that year, the first act after the Framers completed the framing of the Bill of Rights was that:
Mr. [Elias] Boudinot said he could not think of letting the session pass without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining with one voice in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings He had poured down upon them. With this view, therefore, he would move the following resolution:
Resolved, That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer. . . .
Mr. Roger Sherman justified the practice of thanksgiving on any single event not only as a laudable one in itself but also as warranted by a number of precedents in Holy Writ. . . . This example he thought worthy of a Christian imitation on the present occasion.
That congressional resolution was delivered to President George Washington, who heartily concurred with the request and issued the first federal Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring in part:
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor. . . . Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 . . . that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.
That same year, the Protestant Episcopal Church (of which President Washington was a member) announced that the first Thursday in November would become its regular day for giving thanks, “unless another day be appointed by the civil authorities.”  Following President Washington’s initial proclamation, national Thanksgiving Proclamations occurred only sporadically (another by President Washington in 1795, one by John Adams in 1799, one by James Madison in 1814 and again in 1815, etc.);  most official Thanksgiving observances occurred at the state level. In fact, by 1815, the various state governments had issued at least 1,400 official prayer proclamations, almost half for times of thanksgiving and prayer and the other half for times of fasting and prayer.
Much of the credit for the adoption of Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday may be attributed to Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular lady’s books containing poetry, art work, and articles by America’s leading authors. For nearly three decades, she promoted the idea of a national Thanksgiving Day,  contacting president after president until Abraham Lincoln responded in 1863 by setting aside the last Thursday of that November. The Thanksgiving proclamation issued by Lincoln was remarkable not only for its strong religious content but also for its timing, for it was delivered in the midst of the darkest days of the Civil War, with the Union having lost battle after battle throughout the first three years of that conflict. Yet, despite those dark circumstances, Lincoln nevertheless called Americans to prayer with an air of positive optimism and genuine thankfulness, noting that:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. . . . No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, Who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
That remarkable Thanksgiving Proclamation came at a pivotal point in Lincoln’s spiritual life. Three months earlier, the Battle of Gettysburg had occurred, resulting in the loss of some 60,000 American lives. It had been while Lincoln was walking among the thousands of graves there at Gettysburg that he first committed his life to Christ. As he later explained to a clergyman:
When I left Springfield [Illinois, to assume the Presidency], I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.
The dramatic spiritual impact resulting from that experience was not only visible in Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation (and also his 1864 call for a day of prayer and fasting) but especially in his 1865 Second Inaugural Address.
Over the seventy-five years following Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, presidents faithfully followed Lincoln’s precedent, annually declaring a national Thanksgiving Day (but the date of the celebrations varied widely from proclamation to proclamation). In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt began celebrating Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of each November, and in 1941, Congress permanently established that day as the national Thanksgiving holiday.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, remember to retain the original gratefulness to God that has always been the spirit of this – the oldest of all American holidays. (Below are representative examples of the scores of Thanksgiving proclamations penned by various Founding Fathers.)
[Congress] recommended [a day of] . . . thanksgiving and praise [so] that “the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and join . . . their supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to forgive [our sins] and . . . to enlarge [His] kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”  Continental Congress, 1777 – written by SIGNERS OF THE DECLARATION SAMUEL ADAMS AND RICHARD HENRY LEE
[I] appoint . . . a day of public Thanksgiving to Almighty God . . . to [ask] Him that He would . . . pour out His Holy Spirit on all ministers of the Gospel; that He would . . . spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth; . . . and that He would establish these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.  GOVERNOR THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1779
[I] appoint . . . a day of public thanksgiving and praise . . . to render to God the tribute of praise for His unmerited goodness towards us . . . [by giving to] us . . . the Holy Scriptures which are able to enlighten and make us wise to eternal salvation. And [to] present our supplications...that He would forgive our manifold sins and . . . cause the benign religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be known, understood, and practiced among all the inhabitants of the earth.  GOVERNOR JOHN HANCOCK, 1790


Oklahoma State Representative

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rep. Josh Cockroft's Fundraiser This Thursday

To my friends across District 27 and the State of Oklahoma,

    I want to begin by thanking each of you for your support throughout this first year of my first term. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve you at the State Capitol and I look forward to continuing that service. I truly mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say thank you for trusting me to be your Representative during this important time in our State's history. This is not a responsibility I take lightly. Rather, I humbly seek ways to serve you more.

   As we look towards the next election cycle in 2012, I am writing you today because I ask for your continued support. Each of you are important individuals and leaders in our community; people who I am proud to call my friends.

   I ask you to join me for my campaign kickoff reception on:

Thursday, November 17, 2011
5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Tecumseh Town Council Chamber
114 North Broadway Street
Tecumseh, Oklahoma

Our special Guest of Honor will be:
The Honorable Todd Lamb, Lt. Governor of OklahomaAlso in attendance will be:
The Honorable Kris Steele, Oklahoma Speaker of the House
   It would be our honor to have you there as well.  Even if you are not able to donate it would be an honor to have you there to hear from these two fine public officials. 

   Your support and prayers are appreciated. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do for you. 

May God richly bless you,

Rep. Josh Cockroft

Monday, November 14, 2011

Governor Mary Fallin Statement Regarding Supreme Court Decision to Hear Arguments on President Obama’s Health Care Reform Law

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin today released the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), President Obama’s controversial health care law:

“President Obama’s health care law is unconstitutional and unaffordable. Not only will it limit choice and undermine the quality of American health care, it stands to cost the state of Oklahoma about half a billion dollars in the process.

“Our citizens have already passed a constitutional amendment blocking its implementation in Oklahoma, and it’s clear that a majority of states are similarly opposed to the mandates, new taxes, and out-of-control spending proposed in the law.

“The Supreme Court should strike down the president’s health care reform as unconstitutional as soon as possible. The uncertainty surrounding the future of PPACA is frustrating to those who believe it stands as an obvious affront to constitutional principles, and a hindrance to crafting serious budget and health care policy on both the state and federal levels.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Speaker comments on passing Sen. David Myers

Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City, passed away early Friday morning. House Speaker Kris Steele issued the following statement on his passing:

“We already miss Senator Myers at the Capitol and in life. He was a gentle giant, bringing infectious doses of sincerity and dedication to everything he did. I was always thoroughly impressed by the thoughtful, conscientious approach he took to his service in the Senate. There is no doubt Senator Myers will be remembered as a statesman, through and through. I am honored to have served with him. The thoughts and prayers of the entire House of Representatives are with his family, friends and colleagues during this time of loss.” – House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Study Examines Transparency in Legislative Process


OKLAHOMA CITY – New rules requiring Oklahoma House of Representatives conference committees to meet in public have significantly enhanced the ability of the public and the press to monitor legislative actions, according to testimony today before the House Government Modernization committee.
            Oklahoma.Watchdog.Org Editor Peter J. Rudy told committee members that 2011 transparency reforms enhanced his ability to report on legislative activity that would have occurred behind closed doors in the past. Before 2011, lawmakers frequently approved significant changes to legislation late in the session with little public scrutiny. This year’s new House rules required a public hearing on any late session changes to legislation.
            The committee also heard testimony regarding the benefits of proposed House Bill 1085, which would apply Oklahoma’s open meeting and open record laws to the Oklahoma Legislature.
            “This year’s transparency reforms were substantive and have made the Oklahoma House of Representatives much more transparent and accessible to the public,” said state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, the committee’s chairman. “However, that should not stop us from doing the right thing and ensuring the Legislature abides by the same transparency laws that are applied to other governing entities in Oklahoma.”
            OSU Professor Joey Senat told committee members that other states have successfully applied open meeting and open record laws to state legislatures while balancing the privacy concerns of constituents. The Oklahoma Legislature is one of only three state legislatures explicitly exempted from open records law.
            Delaware State Sen. Karen Peterson detailed the positive outcomes of the application of transparency reform in her state. Peterson told the committee that concerns put forward by the opponents of change proved to be unfounded.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Speaker fills vacancies on committees working on water, DHS


Speaker Kris Steele


OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Kris Steele on Wednesday named Rep. Lisa J. Billy as a future member of the Joint Water Committee and Rep. Richard Morrissette as vice-chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services.

Billy, R-Purcell, will fill the Water Committee position now held by Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, who is leaving the Legislature later this month.

“As a distinguished member of the Chickasaw Nation, Representative Billy will be very effective in making sure tribal perspectives are heard in our water discussions. She’s a tenacious, dedicated legislator whose skills will be a big help as we work on the highly important and complex issue of water policy,” said Steele, R-Shawnee.

Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, will fill the Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services vice-chairman position formerly held by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, who was asked to serve as chairman of the committee last week. The committee is responsible for budgeting for the Department of Human Services.

“Representatives Nelson and Morrissette may come from different political camps, but their shared desire to improve DHS transcends politics. They’ll be a dynamic team next session as they work to ensure that the dollars appropriated to DHS are used in the best possible ways,” Steele said. “I know Representative Morrissette won’t be shy about putting forth bold ideas. When it comes to DHS, that’s precisely what we need.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cockroft Column: Pushing for OJA Improvements

I have been recently meeting with local and state officials to address the issues that have arisen in connection to the Office of Juvenile Affairs. An increased interest in the agency grew out of the high-profile escape of three juveniles from the Tecumseh facility early this month.

Many constituents have shared their concern for the safety of the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center facility in Tecumseh and their desire for better management of the entire OJA system. I also have constituents who are employed at the facility.

I have met with Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele to express my concerns over the necessity of better accountability from the OJA board and better management at the state level. He has asked me to help lead the effort from a legislative standpoint.

It is unacceptable that we find ourselves in a position where juveniles have been moved from a high-security facility into a facility with lower security capabilities. It is unacceptable that the safety and well-being of our citizens is threatened. The Oklahoma Legislature needs to take the lead on this issue.

I have had many employees and former workers at several juvenile facilities express concerns over their safety every day. I want to make sure they are adequately protected and are appreciated for the work they do. Currently, they have hardly any assurance of bodily protection if a situation arises. I believe that’s wrong. These men and women play a vital role in our state.

I believe the first step is proper leadership, both at the local level at each facility and at the state level through tough legislation that provides this core function of state government in funding and resources. On the local side, I am pleased with the selection of Jerry Fry as the superintendent of the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center facility. I have had the pleasure of working and conversing with Jerry before and have complete confidence that he is the man for the job. He has a tough road ahead of him, but I look forward to working together.

I am committed to working with legislators, state officials and people across my district and the state to find solutions. Anyone with ideas, questions or concerns, please contact my office at (405) 557-7349 or by e-mail at josh.cockroft@okhouse.gov.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 17, 2011

House Speaker-designate elected

Rep. T.W. Shannon has been elected House Speaker-designate for the 54th Oklahoma Legislature.

The House Republican Caucus elected Shannon, R-Lawton, as Speaker-designate during a caucus meeting Monday morning at the Capitol.

Should Republicans maintain their majority in the House following next year’s election cycle, Shannon will be next in line to serve as Speaker of the House beginning in November 2012, when current House Speaker Kris Steele leaves office due to term limits.

“The House will be in good hands under Representative Shannon’s leadership,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “T.W. is a dynamic and capable leader who will continue to work hard for the state of Oklahoma. I look forward to begin working with him to ensure a smooth leadership transition next year.”

Shannon and Reps. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, and Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, were the candidates for Speaker-designate.

“The three candidates who made themselves available to fill this position are fine public servants and are to be commended for their enthusiastic desire to be leaders in Oklahoma’s effort to grow as a state,” Steele said.

Shannon, 33, said he looks forward to working with Steele and the rest of the House in the coming months.

“I was extremely humbled by the support shown by my colleagues today,” Shannon said. “I am excited and ready to stand behind Speaker Steele to help grow our majority in the coming election and assist in advancing a conservative agenda that will make Oklahoma a destination to live, work and raise a family.”

Shannon, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, is a sixth generation Oklahoman and third generation Lawtonian. He has served in the Legislature since 2006, representing House District 62. Shannon previously served as a congressional staffer for U.S. Reps. J.C. Watts and Tom Cole.

Shannon and his wife, Devon, also a Lawton native, are the parents of a daughter, Audrey Grace, and a son, Tahrohon Wayne II.

Shannon holds a bachelor of arts in communications from Cameron University and a juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Constituents Request Protections for Emergency Responders

At the request of several constituents, I am planning to file legislation in the 2012 legislative session that would protect emergency first responders at their alternate places of employment. These constituents and I both feel that individuals who are willing to lay their lives on the line every day for us deserve a safety net.

Not only do I think first responders deserve our special consideration, but I also think it is prudent to encourage individuals to serve as first responders in rural Oklahoma. We do not want there to be a shortage in this critical area of public safety.

My bill would require employers to allow employees who also work as emergency first responders to take emergency calls without any threat of termination. This would address concerns that first responders could lose their jobs because of employers who didn’t like them leaving on an emergency call and firing them.

I am hoping to get input from various groups leading up to the legislative session, which begins in February 2012. For those wanting to weigh in on this or any other issue, please contact my office at (405) 557-7349 or by e-mail at https://webmail.okhouse.gov/owa/redir.aspx?C=0b75c6c282fe4da187508f12a22e1f3a&URL=mailto%3ajosh.cockroft%40okhouse.gov.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to School = Back to Work

It’s time for school again! Over the last couple of weeks it has been great to see all the kids heading towards school as I head towards work. It reminds me of a time not that long ago when I was anticipating that first day as well. This time of year is filled with so many emotions and new things for each student, but it also includes many things for the teachers and administrators of each school.
During my first session in the legislature I gained a new appreciation and admiration for these individuals who pour so many hours into our student’s lives. I have spent many hours talking with these teachers and administrators and have seen their heart. They are amazing people who long to see our children succeed in life and I am extremely grateful for them.
I am committed to making sure our educators have the tools that they need to successfully guide our children. I am a huge advocate of local control in our school systems and believe that our parents and teachers know what is best for our students. I became frustrated during the legislative session with the legislature, other State leaders, and members of my own party, as they tried to impose reform on our rural schools when it wasn’t in our best interest. While I believe that many of these reform issues would work for larger urban school districts, I couldn’t see them improving our rural schools. In talking with our teachers and administrators I found that they feel the same.
Like I have said before, I believe my job as a Representative is to be accessible and accountable to my constituents. I plan on meeting again with each of the schools and their administrators and teachers this fall. My hope is that these meetings will bring ideas and solutions to improving education in our area.
If you, an individual or a teacher, have ideas or would like to meet with me for any reason, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to talk with you! That’s what I’m here for!
Call my office at: 405-557-7349, email me at: josh.cockroft@okhouse.gov, and follow me on Twitter: VoteCockroft27 and Facebook. Follow my blog at: repjoshcockroft.blogspot.com

Friday, July 29, 2011

Majority of Oklahoma House Prepared to Ratify Balanced Budget Agreement

OKLAHOMA CITY – A majority of the members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives have declared their intent to make Oklahoma one of the first states to ratify a federal Balanced Budget Amendment.
Last week, 42 Oklahoma legislators signed a letter in support of a proposed federal Balanced Budget Amendment. The letter expresses the legislators’ support of the amendment and declares the legislators’ intent to work for ratification of the proposal in Oklahoma.
This week, an additional 22 legislators signed the letter, bringing the total number of signers to 64. On Thursday, the letter containing additional signatures was sent to Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and the congressional sponsors of the amendment.
“If the Balanced Budget Amendment is approved by Congress, we are committed to supporting and working for ratification in Oklahoma,” the letter states. “We are confident that if given the opportunity, Oklahoma will be one of the first states to ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment.”
Signers of the letter include much of House leadership, including House Speaker Kris Steele, Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, Majority Floor Leader Dan Sullivan, Appropriations and Budget Chairman Earl Sears and Majority Caucus Chairman Weldon Watson. House Rules Committee Chairman Gary Banz also signed the letter. Banz’s committee would likely oversee the development and advancement of the ratification resolution.
Other signers include state Reps. Don Armes, John Bennett, Gus Blackwell, David Brumbaugh, Dennis Casey, Josh Cockroft, Ann Coody, Marian Cooksey, David Dank, Lee Denney, David Derby, George Faught, Elise Hall, Tommy Hardin, Corey Holland, Randy Grau, Dennis Johnson, Charlie Joyner, Dan Kirby, Sally Kern, Charles Key, Guy Liebmann, James Lockhart, Scott Martin, Steve Martin, Mark McCullough, Randy McDaniel, Lewis Moore, Glen Mulready, Jason Murphey, Jason Nelson, Tom Newell, Jadine Nollan, Leslie Osborn, Pat Ownbey, Ron Peters, Pam Peterson, Phil Richardson, R.C. Pruett, Sean Roberts, Mike Sanders, Colby Schwartz, Seneca Scott, T.W. Shannon, Randy Terrill, Todd Thomsen, Steve Vaughn, Paul Wesselhoft and Harold Wright.
The letter was also signed by state Sens. Mark Allen, Josh Brecheen, Bill Brown, Greg Treat, Jim Halligan, David Holt, Clark Jolley, Steve Russell and Gary Stanislawski.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oklahoma Legislators Prepared to Ratify Balanced Budget Amendment

A group of 42 Oklahoma legislators have signed on in support of a proposed federal Balanced Budget Amendment. On Tuesday, the group sent a letter to the U.S. congressional sponsors of the proposal and Oklahoma’s congressional delegation. The letter expresses the legislators’ support of the Balanced Budget Amendment and declares the legislators’ intent to work for ratification of the proposal in Oklahoma.
            “If the Balanced Budget Amendment is approved by Congress, we are committed to supporting and working for ratification in Oklahoma,” the letter states. “We are confident that if given the opportunity, Oklahoma will be one of the first states to ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment.”
            Signers of the letter include several members of House leadership, including House Speaker Kris Steele, Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman and Majority Floor Leader Dan Sullivan. House Rules Committee Chairman Gary Banz also signed the letter. Banz’s committee would likely oversee the development and advancement of the ratification resolution.
            Other signers include state Reps. John Bennett, David Brumbaugh, Dennis Casey, Josh Cockroft, Marian Cooksey, David Derby, George Faught, Randy Grau, Sally Kern, Charles Key, Scott Martin, Steve Martin, Mark McCullough, Randy McDaniel, Lewis Moore, Glen Mulready, Jason Murphey, Jason Nelson, Tom Newell, Pat Ownbey, Ron Peters, Phil Richardson, Mike Sanders, Colby Schwartz, Seneca Scott, T.W. Shannon, Randy Terrill, Todd Thomsen, Steve Vaughn, Paul Wesselhoft and Harold Wright.
            The letter was also signed by state Sens. Josh Brecheen, Bill Brown, Greg Treat, Jim Halligan, David Holt, Clark Jolley and Steve Russell.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Importance of Buying Local

Rep. Josh Cockroft

Oklahoma City - With so much going on at the national and state level right now, we sometimes forget about the importance of our local economy and local government entities. Local sales taxes support municipal public safety, roads, schools and drainage and sewer systems. Even if your state and federal representatives are doing everything right, your life will be drastically affected by how your immediate neighborhood and town are functioning.

Although schools receive state funding, much of their key infrastructure revenue comes from local sales and property taxes. Small school districts are especially vulnerable to a decrease in revenue. Outdated drainage and sewer systems can lead to backups, flooding and other problems that can destroy homes. Even if your community is relatively safe, good municipal public safety forces reduce insurance rates.

We have all grown up around friends and neighbors who are part of the local economy. When we spend money in their shops or at their places of employment, we are contributing to their well-being. We are also helping to develop a robust economy that will provide local jobs for our children as they grow up.

One way to help boost your local community is to buy local. Even small towns with just one gas station will see a great difference in local revenue if you support that gas station rather than one in the next town over. Some of us live near a bigger city. We may at times spend money there for convenience. Especially in these hard economic times though, we should consider what our local community offers and whether or not our money would be better spent there.


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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The $70 Man - Rep. Rusty Farley

An excellent article by GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell about our great friend and colleague, Rep. Rusty Farley.

    As most of you have heard by now, Republican State Representative Rusty Farley passed away on the Fourth of July. The day after the 4th he was set to leave on a missions trip with his church.

This 18-year member of the Haworth school board is probably the best example we have that an honest, solid conservative can win anywhere in Oklahoma. House District 1 is McCurtain County, in far southeastern Oklahoma. Only 11.8% of voters are registered Republicans, and 5.2% are Independents, Farley got 50.83% of the vote last year. Impressive no matter what the circumstances.

Did I mention that his opponent spent over $20,000 on his reelection bid, while Farley spent $70? Yep, Farley spent $70 and won the race. Now that's one heck of a conservative when you can stretch $70 that far!
Rep. Farley didn't need to prove his worth to his constituents- he knew who he was and so did District 1 voters. And so, this past legislative session Rep. Farley didn't write a ton of legislation. Nope, in fact Rep. Farley authored just one bill.
He must have read Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative," in which he so eloquently states:
"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed" before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents "interests," I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can."
Yes, you did the very best you could, Rep. Farley, and may it be an example to all of us.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

    Fourth of July weekend is one of my favorite times of the year! There’s just something about the celebration of our country that seems to stir within everyone a sense of pride and unity. We are definitely blessed here in the United States of America, and we forget that fact far too often. When we stop and think about what the men and women who shaped and molded this country went through, it puts it into perspective. So many people, nearly 2.5 million individuals, have given their lives in our armed services; making sure that you and I have the freedoms that we do today. Countless others have laid their lives on the line everyday in serving us.
     I hope that we never forget the sacrifices of these individuals, and always remember the incredible freedoms and liberties that we have today. There are many forces at work that seek to destroy those freedoms, but I hope and pray that we each do our part in making sure we maintain this great nation.
    This Independence Day, I’ll be right along side you in shooting off fireworks, enjoying the swimming pool, eating lots of great summer food, and spending time with friends and family. However, let’s not forget all the ways that God has blessed us all. Take time to reflect on that!
    I’m looking forward to spending so much time with everyone from across my district during the weekend as well! Jessica and I have several stops planned across the district to wish everyone a happy Independence Day. Here is a list of some stops throughout the weekend:

·        Friday Evening: 5pm-dark – McLoud Blackberry Festival
·        Saturday Morning: 9am-11am – McLoud Blackberry Festival Parade
·        Saturday: 12pm-dark – McLoud Blackberry Festival
·        Sunday Morning: 9:30am-12:00pm – Preaching at Cole Baptist Church in Cole, OK.
·        Sunday Evening: 7:00-dark – Emmanuel Baptist Church of McLoud Fourth of July celebration.
·        Monday Evening: 8:00-dark – Asher Fireworks Display at the Asher Baseball Fields in Asher, OK.


We are looking forward to seeing and meeting so many of you this next weekend! May God richly bless you and your family during this amazing time!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cockroft Criticizes Tuition Hikes

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Josh Cockroft today criticized the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s decision to hike tuition rates even as the economic downturn has left many working families struggling to pay for a child’s education.
“At a time when more people need access to our colleges, the regents chose to make it harder for many students to attend,” said Cockroft, R-Tecumseh. “Furthermore, it is clear there was no compelling financial reason for the regents to take this action.”
Last week, the regents voted to increase tuition and fees at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities. The tuition hikes included a 5 percent increase at the University of Oklahoma and a 4.8 percent increase at Oklahoma State University. Overall, tuition rates were increased between 3.2 percent and 8.3 percent at all Oklahoma public colleges.
However, Cockroft noted that a recent report by Matthew Denhart and Christopher Matgouranis found that only 40.5 percent of total expenditures at Oklahoma’s four-year public universities were for instructional needs.
“It is clear that there are many areas that could be cut to adjust to this year’s state appropriation without harming instruction or resorting to tuition increases,” Cockroft said. “Oklahoma’s colleges exist to serve the students, not the other way around. The regents need to get their priorities in order.”
As one of the youngest members of the Oklahoma Legislature, Cockroft knows better than most how challenging it is to pay for college.
“I am not far removed from the time when I was looking at college opportunities and had to figure out how to pay for them,” Cockroft said. “I understand the struggles that Oklahomans will be facing because of these tuition hikes.”
On the other hand, Cockroft said many salaries in the higher education system appear outsized, including the amount paid to Chancellor Glen Johnson, making it difficult for those officials to understand the impact of their actions.
“It saddens me that the individual who recommended these significant tuition increases has no idea of the hardships ordinary Oklahomans are facing,” Cockroft said. “Chancellor Johnson makes almost $400,000 a year.”


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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cockroft Column: Summer Update

    We are nearing a month since the legislative session wrapped up in Oklahoma City, and I have spent that time with my wife on speaking engagements across the country and some much needed rest on family vacation. The saying, “There’s no place like home!” is very true though, and I’m ready to get back into the swing of things here in District 27. As I look over the session and these several hectic months I can’t help but feel a great sense of accomplishment. Not from the things I have done, but at the great strides Oklahoma has taken in that short time. There are definitely many things that need further work and greater attention in key areas of government, but I believe we are moving in the right direction.
     As I go back to my real job in the heat and air industry this summer, I can promise you that I will also be working tirelessly to represent you to the best of my ability as I work towards the next legislative session. I will continue to fight for individual liberties and protecting each of our freedoms. Making sure you keep more of your hard earned money and that state government takes a step back will always be constant goals for me. Making sure our businesses run efficiently without fear of government intrusion, our rural schools are safe from overreaching mandates and can have local control, and that your voice is heard are all reasons why I am here to serve you.
    I have so enjoyed getting better acquainted with so many of you over these past months and look forward to deepening those relationships for years to come. I’m excited about going to so many events this summer and meeting many more of you! Of course there are events such as the McLoud Blackberry Festival in July, Tecumseh’s Frontier Days in August, and all the Pink Indian Taco Dinners that I will be at, but there will be numerous town council meetings and other community events I will make sure and attend. Please don’t hesitate to drop by or grab me and introduce yourself. As always, if there is ever any way that I can help you, please let me know. That’s what I’m here for!
    Make sure to keep track of all of my happenings on my frequently-updated blog: www.repjoshcockroft.blogspot.com. Follow me on Twitter: @VoteCockroft27 and @joshcockroft. Friend me on Facebook: Friends of Cockroft for OK State House. Call me at (405)557-7349, or email me at: josh.cockroft@okhouse.gov.
    May God richly bless you this summer! Stay cool! 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Governor’s Cost-Cutting Plan To Be Signed Into Law



OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposal to modernize the state’s vendor payment system will be signed into law on Tuesday.
House Bill 1086 proposes to utilize electronic payments methods such as direct deposit to pay the state's thousands of vendor invoices. The bill is sponsored by state Reps. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, Josh Cockroft, R-McLoud, and state Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond.
Fallin initially called on legislators to approve the reform during her State of the State address. Fallin proposed the change after the Office of State Finance indicated that the state could be spending up to $13.50 per vendor payment for each payment made using traditional paper conveyances such as payment warrants. This compares to electronic payments which cost the state approximately five cents per transfer.
Currently, approximately 230,000 checks are made with traditional paper payment conveyances. House Bill 1086 will require nearly all vendor payments to be made by electronic payment and could result in million dollars of taxpayer dollars being saved.
“This is an important reform,” Murphey explained. “This should have occurred several years ago and I appreciate the leadership of Governor Fallin and Treasurer Ken Miller in introducing and supporting this innovative plan.”
“This legislation will help the Treasurer’s Office in putting the state’s checkbook online,” said Miller, who has pledged to provide the expanded financial transparency. “I appreciate Representative Murphey’s work on this issue. It’s a natural progression of the partnership he and I had in the Legislature and a step forward in providing government accountability.”
He noted that more than a dozen state treasurers maintain online checkbooks to track state spending.
In addition to the electronic payment proposal, House Bill 1086 represents an omnibus approach to using technology to enable taxpayer savings through efficiencies and spending transparencies. It includes Governor Fallin's proposal for a shared state payroll system which is also estimated to save 2 million dollars each year, the placement of common education spending transactions on the data.ok.gov website and a one-stop shop for many state documents and annual reports to be located in a searchable format for easy purview by the taxpayers at the website documents.ok.gov.
The law will go into effect later this year.


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Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 Legislative Session Wrap-up

Legislative Session Concludes
The 2011 legislative session concluded this week as lawmakers finished work on a number of bills.
First and foremost, lawmakers approved a balanced budget that dealt with a $500 million shortfall largely by cutting spending, just as working families do in tough times.
Redistricting plans were approved with bipartisan support, crafting new legislative districts in accordance with legal guidelines.
In addition, lawmakers also approved several major reforms in a wide range of areas.

Economic reforms
Lawmakers approved lawsuit reforms to make Oklahoma a more attractive place to do business.
House Bill 2128 caps vague noneconomic damages (commonly known as “pain and suffering”) at $350,000 in all civil actions. Under the bill, individuals could still receive unlimited awards for actual economic damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses.
Senate Bill 862 eliminates joint and several liability, sometimes known as the “deep pocket” rule, where each and every defendant in a tort lawsuit is liable for the entire amount of a plaintiff’s damage regardless of their degree of fault. SB 862 ensures that plaintiffs seek defendants who are most at fault rather than defendants with the most financial assets.
Senate Bill 865 requires that juries be instructed in civil cases that no part of an award for damages for personal injury or wrongful death is subject to federal or state income tax; and the jury should not consider income taxes when determining a proper compensation award.
                        Senate Bill 878 reforms workers’ compensation laws. The bill will reduce the fee schedule for medical reimbursement rates by 5 percent and require physicians and the workers’ compensation court to follow national treatment guidelines, called the Official Disability Guidelines, which is expected to also reduce medical costs.
Overall, the measure is designed to reduce “doctor shopping” that can drive up expenses, drive down attorney involvement in cases by encouraging mediation and other remedies, increase the use of vocational rehabilitation, and speed up the process for injured workers to get treatment.

 Pension Reform
            For decades, the financial soundness of our state’s pension systems has been declining. In the last 10 years, we have gone from having an unfunded liability of $6 billion to $16 billion.
            This year, lawmakers tackled that problem head-on, approving reforms that will collectively produce billions in savings over the next 30 years – the largest such debt reduction achievement in state history.
            The major reforms enacted require that cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) be funded when enacted, and adjust the retirement age for those now entering the system to account for the increased life expectancy.

Education
House Bill 1456 requires that Oklahoma’s public schools be given an annual grade of “A” to “F” based on student performance on state tests. The new grading system will provide an easily understood way for parents to obtain a true apples-to-apples comparison between state schools.
            Senate Bill 346 ends social promotion by requiring students entering first grade in the 2011-2012 school year to master grade-appropriate reading skills by the end of third grade in order to be promoted to the fourth grade.
            Senate Bill 969 creates the “Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act.” The bill creates a tax credit for donations to scholarship-granting organizations or educational improvement grant organizations.
Scholarships funded through the tax credit program would serve children from low-income families and allow them to attend private schools. The legislation also funds grants to help rural schools increase offerings in areas where private school is not an option.
            House Bill 2139 grants the State Superintendent of Public Instruction full authority over personnel issues at the Department of Education. 

 Revenue/Taxation
            Legislation reforming Oklahoma’s property tax laws will go before the voters next year.
            House Joint Resolution 1002 allows Oklahoma citizens to vote to impose a 3-percent (or rate of inflation) annual cap that would limit future property tax increases.
            Under current law, property tax valuations can increase 5 percent each year.

Pro-life legislation
House Bill 1888 creates the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Scientific studies have shown that at 20 weeks an unborn child can feel pain. The bill exempts situations in which the life of the mother is at risk or when the mother faces serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.
            Senate Bill 547 ensures standard health insurance policies sold in Oklahoma or sold through a state health insurance exchange do not include elective abortion coverage. The bill prevents Oklahomans from unwillingly subsidizing abortion coverage simply by purchasing health insurance. Under SB 547, those who want abortion coverage could acquire it through optional supplemental coverage with a separate premium.

Public Safety
House Bill 2131 implements corrections reforms designed to reduce costs and ultimately increase public safety. House Bill 2131 expands community sentencing programs, modifies the governor’s role in the parole process for nonviolent offenders, and establishes requirements for members of the Pardon and Parole Board.

Government Streamlining and Transparency
House Bill 1086 creates the Transparency, Accountability and Innovation in Oklahoma State Government 2.0 Act of 2011. Among other things, the bill requires that all payments disbursed from the State Treasury be made only through an electronic payment mechanism and that the “data.ok.gov” website include all spending data subject to publication by the “School District Transparency Act.”
By implementing an electronic payment mechanism, the Office of State Finance predicts a savings of $3.6 million can be accomplished by moving from the current system to the electronic funds transfer system.  The assumption by the Office of State Finance is that the state will save a processing fee of $13.50 per check on 230,000 checks.
House Bill 1304, the Information Technology Consolidation and Coordination Act, is designed to make state IT operations more efficient, secure and effective. Its key proposal is to place all IT operations under the state chief information officer (CIO) rather than spreading the operations out across the state’s hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions.
            Oklahoma’s current IT operation has 76 financial systems, 22 unique time and attendance systems, 17 different imaging systems, 30 data center locations and 129 email and mobile device services. One of the goals of placing IT operations under the CIO is to streamline those services into uniform systems across state government. It’s estimated that the bill could save the state about $360 million over the next five or six years.

           

Taking On Texas

It is fitting that our upstart Oklahoma City Thunder is taking on a seasoned, veteran opponent in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals.
Like the Thunder, Oklahoma is on the rise. And like the Dallas Mavericks, Texas is an established commodity.
But Texas now has serious Oklahoma competition nipping at its heels, both on and off the basketball court. The public policies put forth by the Oklahoma Legislature this year are designed to make Oklahoma competitive with the nation’s best.
Years ago, Texas reformed how it handles lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims. The state placed limits on damages awarded through civil actions and made workers’ compensation system changes that provided increased savings to employers and put injured workers back on the job faster. Doing so helped Texas lure new companies and produce additional jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas led the nation in job creation last year.
However, the Oklahoma Legislature recently produced similar lawsuit and workers’ compensation reforms designed to bring the same results to our state. People are taking notice. A recent survey of 500 CEOs by ChiefExecutive.net ranked Oklahoma the eleventh best state for business, an increase of eight spots from last year.
On corrections policy, Texas, years ago, started putting low-risk, nonviolent offenders in community sentencing rather than in prisons, which alleviated the fiscal and social strains of overcrowded prisons.
Oklahoma took a similar step toward corrections reform this year through House Bill 2131.
Even with the progress Texas has made, it does trail Oklahoma in some areas.
First, we have Kevin Durant. We thank the University of Texas for grooming him. He is an Oklahoman now, and we’re just as proud to have him as he is proud to be here.
Second, and on a more serious note, Oklahoma has managed its plentiful water resources extremely well. The latest version of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan will help the Legislature identify the best strategy to effectively utilize this valuable natural resource.
Texas does not have that luxury. Without enough water to sustain growth, some Texas water districts have sued Oklahoma in hopes of winning access to our water.
Transportation is another area where Oklahoma is beating Texas. Oklahoma has made major investments of public dollars in its transportation infrastructure to ensure roads and highways meet our needs and remain under public control.
Texas, meanwhile, has started relying on private, international companies to build highways in urban areas and across the state. These companies charge for road use and are not accountable to the public. Texas drivers are paying increasing costs just to commute through cities and across the state.
On fiscal matters, Texas this year faced a state budget shortfall of $27 billion, or 15 percent of its last budget. Oklahoma’s state budget shortfall this year was $500 million, or 7 percent of last year’s state budget.
Hopefully soon, Texans will be watching the Thunder dribble past them to the Finals and Oklahoma move past them on the national stage.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Governor Mary Fallin Makes Appointments to Education Boards



OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced appointments to the board of regents for Rose State College, Northern Oklahoma College and Redlands Community College. The Oklahoma State Senate confirmed the nominees on Tuesday.

“These nominees are leaders in their respective fields and bring with them a commitment to ensuring our colleges and universities continue to provide a quality education to our students,” Fallin said.

Tracey Wills, Redlands Community College

Tracey Wills of Edmond is appointed to the Board of Regents for Redlands Community College. She is founder of The Wills Group, a company that specializes in health-care related business ventures.

Wills is a member of the Oklahoma chapter of the International Women’s Forum and the Women’s Presidents Organization. She also serves on the advisory board of First Liberty Bank in Oklahoma City.

In the past, Will has worked with the Redlands Community College Foundation and helped raise significant financial support for the foundation.

Wills is a registered nurse and graduate of Redlands Community College. She will serve a seven-year term and will replace Billy Pope.

Keith James, Northern Oklahoma College

Keith James of Enid is reappointed to the Board of Regents for Northern Oklahoma College. He operates JKJ Real Estate and Auction Company and has a farming and ranching operation in the Pond Creek area.

James has served on the Northern Oklahoma College regents since 1995. He was first appointed by Governor Frank Keating and reappointed twice by Governor Brad Henry.

He is active with Oklahoma Future Farmers of America and is a member of the Oklahoma State Auctioneers Association. He previously served on the Pond Creek–Hunter school board.

James is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. He will serve a five-year term.

Russell Smith, Rose State College

Russell Smith of Midwest City is appointed to the Board of Regents for Rose State College. He owns and operates Loudean Properties, a real estate development company.

Smith previously served as mayor of Midwest City. During his tenure, he served as secretary treasurer of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments and on the board of directors of both the Oklahoma Conference of Mayors and the Oklahoma Municipal League.

He currently serves on the boards of the Midwest Regional Medical Center, Mid–Del Group Homes, and the Rose State College Foundation.

Smith earned an associate’s degree from Rose State College and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma. He will serve a seven-year term and will replace James Howell.

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