Monday, December 31, 2012

Is There a Silver Lining in the Fiscal Cliff?

 With the President and Congressional leaders at an impasse in their negotiations to reach a deal that would prevent our nation from going over the “fiscal cliff” by January 1, it is looking more likely that big tax increases are coming to our citizens and federal spending in our state will be reduced.

I am angered at the likelihood of tax increases on our citizens for no other reason than Congress has for years failed to live within its means and now needs more revenue to pay for services it has no business providing in the first place.

At the same time, I am hopeful that this event will trigger a reduction in federal spending on state programs.

In 2011, state spending reached an all-time high of $16.6 billion, with nearly half of that coming from the federal government in the form of grants and discretionary spending.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the federal government is broke!

Approximately $1 out of every $2 the federal government spends is borrowed from other nations. Our current federal budget deficit – the difference between what we received in revenues and spent – is more than $1 trillion. Our current national debt – the amount we have borrowed and must repay – is now more than $16 trillion.

But that number is only partially true. Because of an accounting gimmick where governments pretend future liabilities don’t exist and, therefore, don’t account for them, most Americans don’t know how big the problem really is. The amount typically reported – more than $16 trillion – is actually only the surface of our debt.

According to a June 2010 article in National Review, America’s total debt – when accounting for unfunded future liabilities in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and state and local bond debt – exceeds $130 trillion.

Take a moment for that to sink in. $130 trillion.

Now consider this: Currently, there is only approximately $60 trillion in circulation throughout the entire world.

When you consider that our federal government owes more than twice the amount of money that actually exists throughout the world, shouldn’t you question why the same government continues to borrow money and spend it on marginally useful state programs?

If no deal is reached, there will be some relatively minor cuts in federal spending.

According to the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services, federal spending in Oklahoma will be reduced by approximately $137 million as a result. I recognize that is only a drop in the bucket compared to nearly $8 billion in annual federal spending in Oklahoma, but every little bit counts.  After all, they are your hard-earned tax dollars.

The truth is, the awareness and discourse we are having as a nation about federal spending that has consumed us as we head toward the fiscal cliff is actually more helpful that the minor cuts in federal spending we will see if we actually go over it.

If there is a silver lining in this mess, I believe that is it.

It is an honor to serve as your state representative. If you ever need anything, call my state Capitol office at (405) 557-7349. Have a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cockroft Column, December 17, 2012

As we near the 2013 legislative session, I am starting my weekly column again in an attempt to keep my district informed about the issues we are dealing with at the Oklahoma State Capitol. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue my service for my district after a very successful campaign season. The overwhelming support was humbling and I enjoyed spending so much time with the people all across the district. I pray every day that I remain worthy of the support given.

There is much that needs to be done. Just in these few weeks since the election, my days have been filled with meetings and phone calls in preparation for the 2013 session. We are extremely blessed in Oklahoma, but there is always work to do. We have many things state lawmakers must address this year if we want to continue moving Oklahoma in a positive direction. There are major issues that we must make critical, important decisions on.

Our workers’ compensation system will be one issue at the forefront of our discussions as we seek to simplify the system and save Oklahoma businesses millions of dollars. Making sure that our state is protected from onerous and overreaching federal regulations will also be a focus. Our state’s rights cannot be jeopardized; Oklahoma’s problems need Oklahoma answers. Many of us will also fight for more local control over our education system instead of the one-size-fits-all approach that has been forced on them. Our parents, teachers, and administrators know best what our students need. In those cases, where education mandates are helpful, we must completely fund them at the state level instead of passing the bill to our local districts. As always, our commitment to public safety and transportation will only strengthen as we will continue to fund core services of government.

I will be rolling out my legislative agenda in the near future with a large list of issues and bills that I will be tackling this year. Each of these will soon be available online at for your viewing ease.

Once again, I am here for the people of my district. I am in a position of service and want to help in any way that I can. Please never hesitate to contact me at (405) 788-9160 or Follow me on Twitter: @VoteCockroft27 and on Facebook: Representative Josh Cockroft.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

McCullough Offers Plan to Protect Students

State Rep. Mark McCullough announced today his plans to file legislation that will, among other things, allow CLEET-certified teachers and principals to carry firearms at school and at school events.
“We cannot continue to be shackled by politically correct, reflexive, anti-gun sentiment in the face of the obvious – our schools are soft targets,” said McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it. I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come.
“ I trust my children to my local teachers and principal every day. I want to give these trusted, responsible educators the ability to defend themselves and our children in the same way any normal parent would, in the face of the unthinkable.”
McCullough and many other legislators have been seriously examining our gun laws for revision, beginning with a 2011 legislative study.
“We’ve been doing our due diligence on this topic. It’s important to get it right,” said McCullough. “CLEET certification is the exact same training our law enforcement professionals receive. Obviously we do not want firearms out and about in the school where students might have access to them. For that reason, if educators are allowed to carry firearms, it is necessary that they have them on their person at all times.”
McCullough said he plans to ensure there is funding available for CLEET certification for educators. He would also like to see schools coordinate with local police departments.
“One idea that has been discussed would be to actually designate these educators as reserve officers with local police and sheriff departments,” said McCullough.
Lawmakers are currently in the process of drafting legislation, which must be filed by 4 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2013.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Speaker-elect Shannon Announces Committee Leadership Posts

House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon today announced committee chairs and vice chairs for standing House committees and appropriation subcommittees.

“After careful consideration, we chose members who we believe have the talent, experience and leadership qualities to lead these committees as effectively and efficiently as possible for the people of Oklahoma,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “I am grateful for each of these members’ willingness to serve, and I look forward to the upcoming session.”

The House committee chairs and vice chairs for the upcoming legislative session include:

Administrative Rules, Government Oversight and Repealer Committee:
Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, Chair
Rep. Dan Fisher, R-El Reno, Vice Chair

Agriculture and Wildlife Committee:
Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman, Chair
Rep. Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, Vice Chair

Appropriations and Budget Committee:
Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, Chair
Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, Vice Chair

Common Education Committee:
Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, Chair
Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison, Vice Chair

Economic Development and Financial Services Committee:
Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, Chair
Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, Vice Chair

Energy and Aerospace Committee:
Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, Chair
Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, Vice Chair

General Government Committee:
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Midwest City, Chair
Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, Vice Chair

Government Modernization Committee:
Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, Chair
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, Vice Chair

Higher Education and CareerTech Committee:
Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, Chair
Rep. Justin Wood, R-Shawnee, Vice Chair

Human Services Committee:
Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, Chair
Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, Vice Chair

Insurance Committee:
Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, Chair
Rep. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, Vice Chair

Judiciary Committee:
Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, Chair
Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, Vice Chair

Long-term Care and Senior Services Committee:
Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, Chair
Rep. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester, Vice Chair

Public Health Committee:
Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, Chair
Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, Vice Chair

Public Safety Committee:
Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, Chair
Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, Vice Chair

Rules Committee:
Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, Chair
Rep. Marian Cooksey, R-Edmond, Vice Chair

States’ Rights Committee:
Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, Chair
Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, Vice Chair

Tourism and International Relations Committee:
Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, Chair
Rep. R.C. Pruett, D-Antlers, Vice Chair

Transportation Committee:
Rep. Charlie Joyner, R-Midwest City, Chair
Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, Vice Chair

Utility and Environmental Regulation Committee:
Rep. Colby Schwartz, R-Yukon, Chair
Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, Vice Chair

Veterans and Military Affairs Committee:
Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City, Chair
Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, Vice Chair

Appropriations Subcommittees:

CareerTech Subcommittee:
Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, Chair
Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, Vice Chair

Common Education Subcommittee:
Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, Chair
Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, Vice Chair

General Government Subcommittee:
Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, Chair
Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, Vice Chair

Higher Education Subcommittee:
Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Lindsay, Chair
Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, Vice Chair

Human Services Subcommittee:
Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, Chair
Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs, Vice Chair

Judiciary Subcommittee:
Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, Chair
Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, Vice Chair

Natural Resources and Regulatory Services Subcommittee:
Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, Chair
Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, Vice Chair

Non-Appropriated Subcommittee:
Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, Chair
Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, Vice Chair

Public Health and Social Services Subcommittee:
Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, Chair
Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Ft. Gibson, Vice Chair

Public Safety Subcommittee:
Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Dacoma, Chair
Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Norman, Vice Chair

Revenue and Tax Subcommittee:
Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, Chair
Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, Vice Chair

Transportation Subcommittee:
Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, Chair
Rep. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, Vice Chair

Special Committees:

Pension Oversight Committee:
Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, Chair

Tax Credit & Economic Incentive Oversight Committee:
Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, Chair
Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, Vice Chair


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Monday, December 3, 2012

Incoming House Speaker Announces Leadership Appointments

Incoming Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon announced the first round of appointments to powerful leadership posts today, tapping a diverse cross-section of the majority Republican Caucus.

"I have worked with these members for years as I served in the legislature, and now it is my honor to serve with them as leaders of this great body," said Speaker-elect Shannon, R-Lawton. "Each of them brings different talents, experiences and perspectives to our leadership team, and they will serve our colleagues well in their new positions."

Shannon chose Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, as Majority Leaders to help lead the House. Each will bring a unique perspective and experience to the job. Rep. Jordan, an attorney and businessman from Tulsa, and Rep. Johnson, a small business owner from Duncan, both bring separate talents that will help steer the House agenda both within the House of Representatives and with other branches of government.

Rep. Jordan expressed his eagerness to serve as Majority Leader.

"I'm honored to be serving at such a critical time in Oklahoma's history,” said Jordan. “There are many important issues before us, and it will take a lot of hard work and unity for us to come up with solutions. I look forward to being a part of that process, and I am grateful for the confidence placed in me by Speaker-elect Shannon."

"The House majority party is a diverse group of talented, experienced people who have lots of energy," said Johnson. "All of us will be working hard throughout the next session to push our specific bills through the legislative process. It gets pretty intense at times, so, one of the duties of the Majority Leader will be to help the Caucus stay focused. A unified Majority Caucus with common goals will be crucial to our success. I look forward to the task."

To serve as the next Majority Floor Leader, Shannon chose veteran legislator Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa. A former Majority Whip and senior member of the House, Peterson's legislative experience will serve the House well as the next Majority Floor Leader.

"I'm very humbled and honored to have this opportunity," said Peterson. "I am looking forward to serving with Speaker-elect Shannon in this new leadership role."

To serve as the next Majority Whip, Shannon chose Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada. Rep. Thomsen serves as a coordinator for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

"This is a very humbling opportunity for me, and I am honored that our Speaker-elect would ask me to serve in this capacity," said Thomsen. "I am very thankful to be able to serve my colleagues and my constituents in this leadership role, and I will do my best to earn their trust."

And finally, Shannon tapped Norman Republican Scott Martin to chair the powerful Appropriations and Budget Committee. Rep. Martin currently serves as the vice-chair of the Appropriations and Budget Committee.

"Chairing the Budget Committee is probably one of the toughest jobs in the House, but I'm up to the task," said Martin. "You don't make a lot of friends when you have to tell people 'no', but taking care of our tax dollars means we have to say 'no' to a lot of spending items.

“Considering all the uncertainty we are seeing with the federal budget, this could prove to be a difficult year for our budget here in Oklahoma. I'm honored to have this position, and I will work hard every day to watch over our tax dollars."

Shannon said he will be announcing other leadership positions in the coming weeks, including the list of committee chairmen and vice-chairmen.

"We haven't finalized every position yet, but I feel very confident we have a strong and talented group of leaders from throughout the Caucus," said Shannon. "Things feel really good right now. Our Caucus is energized and unified, and I am very optimistic about what we can accomplish this session."


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