Monday, January 26, 2015

Rep. Josh Cockroft Announces Aggressive, Common Sense Conservative Agenda

    The first session of the 55th Oklahoma legislature will convene on February 2nd at 12:00 noon and the state’s legislators will begin deliberating over this year’s issues. This legislative session I will be aggressively pushing a common sense conservative agenda focused on the serious issues in our state. During the entire interim, I have been working, communicating, and consulting with constituents and am now ready to get to work moving our state forward. As I have done every year I have been in office, I am releasing my agenda for your viewing as we begin the legislative process.

My legislative focus will be centered around five core areas. I’ve outlined each of the measures below:

State Government Efficiency and Effectiveness

I have filed House Bill 1275, which couples election dates for school boards and municipalities. This will save tax dollars while encouraging greater voter participation in historically low-turnout races. My House Bill 1285 will prohibit agencies from increasing fees without proper justification and disclosure. My House Bill 1286 will require state agencies to develop contingency plans for times when the federal government makes funding reductions. My House Bill 1287 sets up an online presence for making Open Record requests. Two other reforms I will pursue are a constitutional amendment to make Oklahoma Supreme Court justices subject to a vote of the people and the creation of an Oklahoma Federal Funds Commission to study the state’s financial stability and dependency on the federal government.

Public Safety and County Government 

My House Bill 1276 updates current Oklahoma bomb squad statutes with clearer intent language and equips law enforcement to better prevent terrorist activities. My House Bill 1284 enables law enforcement to contract out mental health transports, saving resources and funds. My House Bill 1279 revises county government purchasing procedures. My House Bill 1278 promotes and provides aftercare services to juvenile offenders aging out of the Office of Juvenile Affairs. My House Bill 1288 authorizes road service vehicle companies to use certain flashing lights on road service vehicles.

Energy and Regulatory Services 

House Bill 1277 will create a state fund that uses existing oil and gas taxes to create CNG infrastructure within county vehicle fleets. House Bill 1282 provides safety guidelines for CNG infrastructure and equipment. Finally, House Bill 1283 provides guidelines for distribution of CNG, LNG, and gasoline products. It is intended to prevent federal overreach.

Child Services and Procedures 

House Bill 1280 sets requirements for the Department of Human Services to follow when taking complaints towards child care facilities. It will saves funds and resources and streamline complaint procedures. I also filed House Bill 1281, which provides procedures for establishing scholarships for Child Development Associate and Child Care Professionals, thus removing federal oversight.

Protection of Human Life

Finally, I filed House Bill 1289, which creates the Protection of Human Life Act and prohibits embryonic stem cell research within Oklahoma.

Despite the challenges we face as a state, I remain optimistic for our future. We face financial struggles and policy changes which could change the direction of our state. However, I believe conservative values and policies are what have worked, are working, and will continue to work in the future. It is a dependency on Almighty God and a steadfastness in the beliefs which have brought us here that will continue to make Oklahoma a shining beacon for others to see. We must set the example.    

It is an honor to serve you. It matter not if you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent; I am here to serve you. Please visit my policy blog at Communication is important to me. I want to know how to I can better serve and lead for our district and our state. I am always a phone call away at: (405) 557-7349. You can also email me at:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Budget Shortfall, Changes Face Lawmakers Starting February 1st

    State lawmakers are currently discussing the budget picture as we prepare to begin the legislative session in February. The budget forecast is difficult but not insurmountable. We had a budget hole last year that we filled with one-time revenue sources. This year we will fall back to the standard sources and that will mean we need a new strategy.

    The Oklahoma State Board of Equalization has estimated that we will have less revenue growth for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2015. This is due to the recent drop in oil prices and lower prices in agricultural commodity markets. Combined with that lack of revenue growth are other factors such as the loss of one-time revenue sources. The state’s overall projections and agency budget requests for this fiscal year were off from available revenue by around $300 million, but we are facing an actual deficit of around $25 million.

    Tax cut critics are going to overlook the factors I have described above and simply say, look, they cut taxes, and now we have less. The truth though is that tax cuts have led to revenue growth. However, as the revenue has grown so has our funding needs for education, transportation and public safety. We have cut some non-essential spending, but to balance our budget, we need to continue to prioritize better.

    This year, Speaker Jeff Hickman is already discussing reductions to tax incentives that the state gives to special interests. I agree overall with the goal of these incentives. Many were created in order to attract or keep business in the state. Specific oil and gas incentives have been proven to be highly effective. However, over time, we have seen that most do not give us a proper return on our investment. Currently our state gives around $1.7 billion every year in credits, subsidies and incentives. We need to make sure every penny is spent wisely and is being used effectively to actually attract or keep business in our state and not just be given away.

    We are also discussing change the way in which we craft the budget. A constitutional amendment has been filed that would make one session a budget-only session every two years. There has been vocal support for this plan by the governor. A second proposed change would allow us to focus on needs rather than how much we want to add to current expenses. We basically start from last year’s budget when we build the next year’s budget and this would have us go back to the drawing board and make sure we do not waste money on programs that are no longer a high priority.

    As your state representative this year, I will work to reduce tax credits and incentives, provide adequate funding for high priority needs and improve the budget process.

    It is an honor to serve you. It matter not if you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent; I am here to serve you. Please visit my policy blog at Communication is important to me. I want to know how to I can better serve and lead for our district and our state. I am always a phone call away at: (405) 557-7349. You can also email me at:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cockroft Column: Changing School Board Election Dates A Must

    As I attended this year’s first legislative event on Tuesday, the Organizational Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol, I felt optimistic about the opportunities that will be presented this session. Every election changes the makeup of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, making it possible for new ideas to be infused into the process and allow measures that failed narrowly in past years to get a new chance.

    I have a great deal of respect for our educators. I also have deep respect for the leaders of our community who throw their hat in the ring to serve on our school boards. There are many things that teachers, administrators and school board members are doing right. I have said many times before that our educators are the backbone of our communities. Often doing a thankless job, they shape our state’s future everyday with the work they do in the classroom as well as the board room. I believe their job to be one of the most important any person could hold.

    However, we all know that there are some changes needed in public education. Among the discussion of more funding for education, more local control for our school districts, and less overreaching mandates from the State and Federal government, are smaller, yet significant improvements that can be made. One of the best ways to enact change is to attract new blood and broaden the public conversation about the problems facing education. However, due to the timing of school board elections, those discussions are rarely held, and new blood is rarely attracted. Constituents have pointed out to me again and again that school board elections receive low voter turnout. Election return numbers from all across the state back these claims up. An Oklahoma City election in February of 2009 garnered only eight percent of registered voters. In rural areas of the state, that eight percent is actually a very high number. 

    One way I feel that this process could be improved is by tying school board elections to other elections already being held, such as municipal elections. This reform would also save the state money while encouraging more participation in the process.

    Unions and special interest groups have successfully controlled school board elections across the state for years. Yet, when individual teachers were surveyed by the Professional Oklahoma Educators Association in 2009 and asked whether school board elections should be coupled with already existing elections, 85 percent replied yes. When you control the way elections are held you can control who wins. I prefer transparency and engagement over control.

    I have run this legislation every year I have been in office because it is something I believe in and have heard clearly from my constituents. Last year, I received a floor vote but did not receive the votes needed to pass legislation to institute this reform. It failed on the floor by a vote of 44-47. However, this year, there is new blood in the House and I hope to see it receive greater support. This fight isn’t as large as some of the issues we discuss and debate every year, but this reform is a small step in the right direction. I believe it will effectively engage more people in the decisions made by our local communities.

    It is an honor to serve you. It matter not if you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent; I am here to serve you. Please visit my policy blog at Communication is important to me. I want to know how to I can better serve and lead for our district and our state. I am always a phone call away at: (405) 557-7349. You can also email me at: