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PRESS RELEASE: House Republicans Announce 2010 Legislative Agenda

PRESS RELEASE: House Republicans Announce 2010 Legislative Agenda

CONTACT:
Jennifer Monies, Press Secretary
Oklahoma House of Representatives
Office of House Speaker Chris Benge
Office: 405-962-7679
Email: jenniferm@okhouse.gov

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 20, 2010) — The House Republican Caucus gathered today to unveil their 2010 legislative agenda, which includes efforts to grow Oklahoma’s economy, improve vital government services like education, public safety and health care, all while streamlining and modernizing government.

First and foremost, the House Republican agenda emphasizes efforts to grow Oklahoma’s economy and create jobs. The caucus has pledged to approach this year’s budget shortfall in a fiscally responsible manner through restraining and cutting spending while protecting core government functions like education, health care, transportation and public safety as much as possible.

The agenda also focuses on reforming education and improving student achievement, promoting a healthy Oklahoma, maximizing Oklahoma’s natural resources, providing safety and security for all Oklahomans, advancing government efficiency and modernization, and strengthening the Oklahoma family.
“This year, the budget will influence every policy decision we make. But we cannot use the current shortfall as an excuse to stop the momentum we have seen in recent years,” said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. “I am confident that despite budget considerations, we will be able to pass meaningful legislation this year that will help grow Oklahoma.”

Efforts to modernize and streamline government will continue to be a focus this year for House Republicans. Utilizing technology, many government functions can be combined or eliminated, saving taxpayer dollars all while improving access to government services.

“Given the current budget picture, it is more important than ever to make sure we are using taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible,” said Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie and chairman of the House Government Modernization Committee. “These efforts are a win-win for the taxpayers, who have seen improved services, especially through increased online offerings, while also seeing a reduction in the size of government.”

Reforming the state’s public education system will also be a focus this year as Oklahoma competes for federal dollars in its Race to the Top application. To qualify for those funds, reforms House Republicans have been pushing for years must be put in place, including performance pay for teachers and an expansion of the state’s charter school system. The reforms will ensure high standards by building additional accountability into the system.

“Perhaps never before have we had such an opportunity to improve our state’s education system,” said Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton and chairwoman of the House Education Committee. “This year we will not only work to protect education from budget cuts as much as possible, but we will strive to improve standards, increase accountability, encourage local control and pay good teachers for their dedication to student performance.”

House Republicans will also continue to push Oklahoma’s leadership in reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil by encouraging usage of domestic, alternative energy like natural gas and wind.

“We can’t secure our economic future until we secure our energy future,” said Benge, who authored several alternative energy bills last session and will continue to push the issue both at a local and national level. “Energy security is one of the largest issues facing our nation, and Oklahoma has a real opportunity to lead the way, both in energy production and energy policy.”

The state’s workers’ compensation system will also be targeted for reform this year as House Republicans try to reduce system costs on local businesses while streamlining the process for injured workers.

“Encouraging economic development will be critical as we work to recover from the current recession. Our current workers’ compensation system does not provide the benefits that injured workers need, nor does it provide employers a reasonable cost to do business,” said Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa and chairman of the House Economic Development Committee.

The uncertainty caused by the raucous health care debate in Washington has lead House Republican leaders to urge federal officials to remember the importance of states rights and local control when considering changes to the nation’s health care system.

“Meeting Oklahoma’s health care needs continues to be a priority of the Republican caucus. Unlike the heavy-handed federal policies being discussed in Washington, we will continue to advance initiatives that promote wellness, prevention and access to affordable, patient-centered care,” said House Speaker-Designate Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. “Our state’s Insure Oklahoma program is looked to as a public-private partnership model across the country. I believe it serves Oklahomans best to let local leaders build on local health care successes.”

Finally, House Republicans will work to further pro-life legislation that was previously overturned by the courts because multiple changes were made in one bill.
“We disagree with the court’s ruling, and will work this session to pass each bill separately to ensure these important life-saving reforms become law,” said Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, who authored the legislation last year.

The Legislature is set to return to work Feb. 1.

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