By REP. JAMES LOCKHART
Despite the blistery cold weather, legislators from across the state traveled to our Capitol to kick off the second week of session. This week we celebrated Water Appreciation Day at the Capitol, participated in the Close Up Shadowing program, hosted the Oklahoma Conference of Churches Day, the Business and Industry Day, and the Child Advocacy Day.
House Democrats lost one caucus member this week, Rep. Al McAffrey , who was elected to fill the vacant seat in Senate District 46. Rep. McAffrey’s last day in office will be Feb. 23. Although we will miss Rep. McAffrey, we know he will be doing great work on the Senate side of the Capitol.
We are also very pleased to welcome freshman legislator Curtis McDaniel, who won the special election for House District 1. The swearing-in ceremony will be held this coming Wednesday prior to the start of session.
I want to congratulate our own state Rep. Wes Hilliard and his family on their newest member, Jaxson Lee Hilliard, who was born Thursday a little after 12:30 p.m. He weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces and measured 20 inches in length.
This week a bipartisan move was made in committee with HJR1093 to block the scheduled pay increases of statewide elected officials. Democrats took the lead on this issue, stating, “this is not the time to be doling out $350,000 in raises for statewide elected officials when state employees have not received a raise in almost six years.”
Legislation seeking to phase out the income tax over a 10-year period passed out of a subcommittee this week (HB3038). Many lawmakers and others still claim that our state can afford to lose one-third of its revenue without making cuts to core government services.
I am worried about increases in fines and fees on small business owners or increases in property or sales taxes in order to replace the lost revenues from the income tax reduction.
The first of many pension bills slated for a hearing this session passed off the House floor. Unlike earlier attempts, leadership sought input from firefighters when drafting HB2320, and the measure passed by a vote of 93-1. HB2320 increases the employee contribution rate from 8 percent to 9 percent of gross salary and raises the employer contribution rate from 13 percent to 14 percent of paid gross salaries.
House bill 3055, introduced by Speaker of the House Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, passed out of committee this week. The bill attempts to set very high standards for the state’s water consumption for the next 50 years. I was one of two people who voted against it. I voted against it because the bill creates a board and Southeast Oklahoma is not guaranteed representation on the board. The bill also is contingent upon funding, which basically kicks the issue down the road for future generations to address.
It is an honor to represent your views at the capitol. If I can be of assistance you can reach me at the capitol: (405) 557 7413, at home: (918) 653 7571, or by email: [email protected]. You can also find me on Facebook.