OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Republican Caucus has advanced another round of pro-growth legislation this year as it seeks to build on the achievements of last year’s historic legislative session.
“House Republicans advanced a well-rounded growth agenda again this session and we’re excited to begin working with the Senate and governor to see it through to the finish line,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. “I’m proud of our caucus for doing what we were sent here to do and what we said we would do.”
March 15 was the deadline for House bills to be heard by the full House of Representatives. In total, the House advanced 313 bills and eight joint resolutions by the deadline.
Many of those measures represent continued enactment of the House Republican Caucus agenda, which was set in December 2010 for the two-year 53rd legislative session. The Caucus agenda reflects a commitment to the economy, government reform and modernization, public safety, constitutional rights, traditional values, health and education.
Tax reform has emerged as the centerpiece of this year’s efforts to grow the economy and reform government. The House advanced two plans to lower the personal income tax rate and several other measures to reform the state’s tax credit system.
“No tax plan is final yet and much work is left to do, but we’re well on our way to reducing the income tax so Oklahomans can keep more of their money to put into our growing economy,” Steele said. “House Republicans aren’t at all bashful about our desire to lower taxes and we will continue working toward that goal for the rest of session.”
The House advanced Gov. Mary Fallin’s income tax reduction plan as well an income tax reduction plan authored by Rep. Leslie Osborn and 30 other House Republicans.
“By allowing people to enjoy more of the fruits of their labor, we give people more reasons to work, invest, save and produce at a higher level, leading to a stronger economy for our state as a whole,” said Osborn, R-Mustang.
Rep. David Dank led a task force over the interim that studied the state’s tax credit system and found many tax credits have little transparency and accountability and do not generate economic growth greater than the credits’ cost to taxpayers. Legislation that has advanced containing policies based on the task force’s findings includes measures to enact tax credit criteria and reform transferability provisions of tax credits.
“The path to true tax relief for all Oklahomans starts with true tax credit reform,” said Dank, R-Oklahoma City. “It’s time to get rid of the bad credits that rob taxpayers of their money and keep the good credits that grow our economy.”
Other economic measures passed by the House this session include a slate of transportation policies that would repair Oklahoma’s structurally deficient bridges and direct more resources to county road and bridge needs.
“Improving and replacing dilapidated bridges on Oklahoma roads makes us safer and generates positive economic benefit for all of Oklahoma by ensuring we have modern transportation infrastructure in place throughout the state,” said Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “It will also benefit future generations of Oklahomans by tackling this crucial need today instead of passing the buck to our children.”
The House also advanced water policy measures that will allow the state to begin implementing another 50-year water plan by placing an emphasis on water conservation, water infrastructure financing and improved water planning statewide.
“We must have water to grow the economy and the state as a whole, so we’ve put the wheels in motion to give the next generation of Oklahomans the water they need,” said Rep. Phil Richardson, R-Minco, co-chairman of the Joint Water Committee.
Since House Republicans gained majority status in 2005, they have passed policies every year to increase government efficiency and eliminate waste. Government would continue to become leaner and more efficient under the government modernization policies passed out of the House this year, which include measures to further consolidate duplicative state services and entities, fleet reform, purchasing reform, information technology reform and transparency initiatives designed to make more government information available to the public.
“We’re continuing to meet the mandate from voters who have said loud and clear that they expect Republicans to build them a leaner, more effective, more transparent government,” said Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, chairman of the House Government Modernization Committee.
Another component of the House Republican commitment to government modernization is pension reform. Several more pension reform measures were advanced this year that will continue making the state’s pension systems fiscally sustainable in the long term.
“Pension reform has always been and continues to be about making realistic financial decisions so government can pay its bills and keep its promises to workers,” said Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, chairman of the House Pension Oversight Committee.
Other government modernization measures passed by the House this session include the foundation of governance, structural, resource allocation and personnel reforms to the Department of Human Services, the state’s largest agency.
“Our work to address the issues facing DHS is on track and we’ll soon be finalizing plans to help DHS provide better services to our most vulnerable citizens. The better served our vulnerable are, the better off our whole state will be,” said Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, leader of the House DHS working group and chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Human Services.
The House also advanced measures protecting and enhancing public safety, including a bill by Steele that was developed through the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
“We passed a pro-law enforcement statewide public safety plan that’s based on data and facts – not emotions, false fears and anecdotes – and affords law enforcement the resources they need to reduce violent crime and create a safer state,” Steele said.
House Republicans have long-championed constitutional rights and did so again this session by passing a responsible open carry bill that strengthens Second Amendment rights.
“Our concealed carry law works well and we’re confident this open carry law will work, too. It’s practical, responsible and unapologetically constitutional,” said Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, the principal House author of the open carry bill.
House Republicans also upheld their commitment to traditional values and passed important pro-life measures that hold abortionists more accountable and responsibly regulate drugs used in abortions.
“As a pro-life caucus, we’re always going to do everything possible to protect the lives of the unborn and the health and safety of women,” said Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore.
In an effort to improve Oklahomans’ quality of health and access to health care, the House passed a measure to address doctor shortages by creating a new hospital residency training program.
“Oklahoma’s doctor shortage is a real problem for the insured and uninsured alike, particularly in rural areas. Improving hospital residency programs is a pragmatic, realistic step the state can take to boost the number of doctors treating patients in our state,” Steele said.
Last year was a breakout session for education policy in Oklahoma following the passage of several significant education reforms. House Republicans have since been working with education officials to begin enactment of those new policies.