Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Dist. 27 Representative Learning The Capitol Ropes

Wayne Trotter
• Thu, Jan 06, 2011

These are exciting times for Josh Cockroft.
At 21, the new, home-schooled state representative already has taken his oath as one of the youngest ever to serve in the Oklahoma Legislature. He’s getting married Jan. 22 to Jessica Magar. And his 22nd birthday is coming up on Feb. 6.
“I'm getting married on Jan. 22 to Jessica Magar; we are childhood sweethearts,” Cockroft said. “Jessica and I both are extremely excited to see what God has in store for us as we take this next step of marriage. Jessica is my rock and even though my life has been very busy, she has always stood strong for me. I couldn't be happier.”
Cockroft, who’s from McLoud, succeeded former Rep. Shane Jett as the lawmaker from District 27 which covers most of Pottawatomie County outside the immediate Shawnee area and laps over into Cleveland County as far as Slaughterville. He climbed past three Republican opponents and defeated Democrat Chris Odneal to win the post in the Nov. 2 election. Jett gave up the seat to make an unsuccessful run for Congress.
He's even posted a picture of his seat on the floor of the House of Representatives on Facebook. He's also got an office (Room 315), an official state telephone number (557-7349) and an interim secretary. When he gets a permanent secretary in a couple of weeks, she'll have to serve three offices, thank you budget cuts.
“I’m going to be sharing a secretary with two other freshmen because money is so tight,” he explained. “It’s not unusual. There are second-term and third-term members having to share staffers this year. I’m in the process right now of doing interviews with people to help me.
“They go through testing that the state provides and if that works out, you know they’re pretty good.”
Meanwhile, the wheels of the legislative process keep turning and the new legislator from Pottawatomie County keeps watching and learning. He already has his committee assignments beginning with an appropriations and budget role for public health and social services. Other committees are government modernization, public safety and transportation, an area in which Cockroft has expressed tremendous interest.
He’s also spent time familiarizing himself with what a layman might consider the complicated procedures and processes that go along with being a lawmaker.
“All of our intent to file legislation is done,” he reported in an interview conducted a week ago. “Today (Thursday, Dec. 30) was actually the deadline for substantive language, meaning that they want the Oklahoma statute number by today. From this point on, we’ll be working on actual language for those bills.
“I’ve gone through several sessions of freshman orientation up at the capitol. Also, we’ve had a couple of caucus retreats.
“It’s been a little bit of a learning curve obviously for me. Stepping into this role as a freshman, you’re hit daily with information that you’ve got to store and got to know. It’s learning on the run but I have to say that I’m having more fun than I have in a long time.
“I love the atmosphere up at the capitol and I love to be able to have people call my office wanting me to fix their problems. Ninety percent of the time, I may not be able to actually help them but I want to be listening and want to be involved. I might be able to pass it on to someone who actually may be able to help.”
Cockroft said Speaker Kris Steele, the other member of the House from Pottawatomie County, has been very helpful in the early going.
“Kris helped me during the campaign,” Cockroft said of the Shawnee Republican. “He and I started with a good relationship. He’s been very, very willing to help me as a new member. Kris is very experienced, very gracious. He’ll get any amount of information that I need and answer any questions I might have. I really like Kris personally. He’s been a wealth of information.
“Other relationships have been with the freshman class. We’ve got 16 Republicans and four Democrats who are in the freshman class this year. Freshman orientation has been great. We’re all at the same point together, kind of learning together, but all very eager to be able to represent the people who elected us.”
He said he’s been very pleased with media coverage of the budget situation. “What I am reading or seeing on TV or on the internet is very accurate so far. The budget is a big issue this year. We’re experiencing cutbacks at all levels.
“In years past, one argument that has been used against legislators is that the people back in the districts are struggling but it seems that the representatives and senators aren’t holding themselves to the same standards as the taxpayers back home. That’s something I wanted to make sure didn’t happen and I’ve been very pleased with the leadership. We at the state capitol are taking just as big hit as any state agency or that the people back home are experiencing.
“It’s affecting how we’re running business up there but that’s what we’ve got to do. I believe in responsible government and if we’re going to turn these economic terms around, the very first entity that should be responsible is state government.
“So far, the response by state and local government has been very good.”

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