Monday, May 2, 2011
May is the last month of the 2011 legislative session, and I’m happy to say this legislative year is on track to be a productive one. Several key reforms already having been signed into law and more are on the way.
We have delivered, for instance, on landmark lawsuit reform that will help to create more jobs in Oklahoma by establishing a better business climate and placing a cap of $350,000 on non-economic damages.
Where education is concerned, the legislature has worked with me to pass bills making it easier to let go ineffective teachers, ending a lengthy and costly legal appeals process known as “trial de novo” that had previously made it nearly impossible to fire even the most ineffective instructors.
We have also passed important pro-life measures, prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks (when an unborn child begins to feel pain) and ensuring that those citizens who purchase private health insurance are not unknowingly or unwillingly subsidizing abortion.
Finally, legislative leaders and I have agreed to reject $54 million in federal funds to ensure that the state of Oklahoma sends a clear signal to Washington: we do not want, in any shape or form, to be tied to ObamaCare. And while we continue to fight the president’s health care plan, both legislatively and in court, we’re also moving to establish our own Oklahoma-based health solutions, including the creation of a new online insurance network where businesses and families can shop for affordable, high quality private health insurance.
The first three months of the legislative session have been a testament to the goals and values that many conservative lawmakers, including myself, outlined during their campaigns: encouraging more private sector job growth and boosting our economy, reaffirming our commitment to conservative values and standing up to the Obama Administration when it overreaches.
All of this is good news. But we have a long way to go before we reach the finish line.
During my campaign for governor, I promised voters I would bring Oklahoma a smaller, smarter government able to operate more efficiently and effectively. To deliver on that promise, my administration is proposing two important reforms: the consolidation of several agencies under the Office of State Finance, and the restructuring and consolidation of the state’s Information Technology resources.
Together, these two reforms will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year – with the potential for much more – while eliminating government waste and duplication of services. Our IT reform bill, for instance, will reduce the number of financial payment systems the state uses from over 70 to just one, delivering a more streamlined, efficient way of doing business.
We have a number of other important reform measures that we must deliver on this session. Overhauling our workers compensation system, in order to reduce skyrocketing legal and medical costs that continue to drive jobs out of state, is a priority. We must pursue additional education reform, including an A-F grading system for our schools. And the creation of a Quick Action Closing Fund to lure new businesses and jobs to the state of Oklahoma is necessary before we can truly say we are doing everything in our power to create the best business climate possible.
All of these are substantial reforms that require political courage and willpower. But each one of them is necessary for our conservative lawmakers to fulfill their promises to voters.
I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our legislative leaders to date. Now it’s time to finish the heavy lifting and close out the legislative session by delivering on the important reform measures we promised voters we’d act on. I look forward to our lawmakers working to send these bills to my desk.