Monday, April 4, 2011
Cockroft Column: Halfway Through
The legislative session is half over. House lawmakers have poured through a portion of the 1,209 bills and joint resolutions filed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and advanced 257 of those bills and six joint resolutions. I thought it would be a good time to tell you what has been accomplished so far and what’s coming up.
Facing a $500 million shortfall this year, conservatives were keen to pass reforms that would eliminate wasteful spending. An example of this is House Bill 1304, which would streamline technology systems in state government. A report by the Capgemini consulting firm found that Oklahoma is rife with the use of separate redundant software systems. The study indicates Oklahoma is spending $35.6 million more than the average IT expenditures of similar entities.
Conservatives also approved lawsuit reform and workers’ compensation reform to improve the pro-job climate of Oklahoma. Both systems have been overdue for change and currently benefit lawyers more than anyone else. The workers’ compensation reforms we have enacted will ensure injured workers continue to receive benefits but will reduce the cost of determining the benefit.
Education reform is another crucial part of bringing jobs to Oklahoma. House lawmakers approved an “A-F” grading system for schools that has been proven to be effective in creating greater accountability. We also approved legislation that adds elementary and assistant superintendents to a list of positions included in a current administrative expenditure cap.
The House also approved corrections reform that will increase the rate of rehabilitation of nonviolent offenders while reducing the cost of addressing their crimes. The legislation will increase the use of GPS monitoring systems and alternative sentencing programs for low-level crimes. We also advanced new immigration reforms.
There was widespread bipartisan support of pro-life bills this session. One important bill notes the medical advances that have shown that fetuses feel pain quite early. The legislation limits how late an abortion can be performed. We also passed legislation to enact greater regulation of abortion pills so that women truly know the potential side effects of using such destructive medicine. An important Second Amendment bill will allow individuals to keep a firearm in their locked car on technology center grounds. It is currently a felony to do so.
Approximately 200 House appropriations measures remain alive and await action in a joint budget committee. For the next few weeks, House members will review the legislation sent to us by the state Senate, which approved 367 Senate bills and joint resolution out of the 1,016 that were introduced. House members have until April 14 to complete committee work on Senate bills and then have until April 28 to give Senate bills a hearing on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
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