Legislative Update – Priorities: Roads, Public Safety and Education

Having recently met with Hardy Watkins, executive director for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, I thought I would fill you in a bit on the progress of renovations to Watonga’s Roman Nose State Park and Lodge.

I attended the meeting along with state Sen. Ron Justice. According to Watkins, the renovation of the lodge is right on schedule.

Aside from its stunning natural beauty, the Roman Nose State Park is an important way in which tourism dollars are brought to Watonga and other nearby towns. In order to reach it and other parts of the district, it is of course important to fix and update our roads and bridges.

Which brings me to the topic of this weeks’ column – as the state budget gets tighter, what are the core responsibilities of our state government?

Both myself and members of the conservative majority in the state Senate and House would contend that public safety, transportation and public education are the core areas of state government that need attention.

Throughout Oklahoma, residents have called upon the Legislature to improve our roads and bridges that have been long-neglected. In recent sessions, the conservative majority responded by providing record funding for road and bridge projects. I cannot promise you that we will again provide record funding because of the budget shortfall we may be facing. Roads will continue to be a priority, however, and will not get short-changed in this year’s budget negotiations.

State government should always focus on public safety. For this reason, conservative lawmakers have continued to push for new legislation to aid law enforcement and to target specific problems. One such bill passed this year increases the penalties for bringing a cell phone into prisons from a misdemeanor to a felony. Another would outlaw membership in a criminal gang and increase the penalties for attracting underage members. Despite a large prison population, the conservative majority has also resisted efforts to reduce sentences while passing at least one bill intended to decrease recidivism rates.

Education is another area that has received record funding recently from conservative lawmakers. Legislators this year have also worked to pass several pieces of legislation allowing for more local control. By continuing to look for ways to streamline the state’s education services while continuing to ensure its funding is prioritized over services of lesser importance, conservatives will continue to protect public education in Oklahoma.

I would like to thank Kingfisher resident Anna Langdon for stopping by recently. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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