This past week I was privileged to take part in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s second inauguration. Also sworn into public office were returning officials Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn, and Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready. New to statewide public office this year are Attorney General Gentner Drummond, State Treasurer Todd Ross, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters. It was an honor to be on the platform and watch the swearing-in for those promising to help uphold our state’s Constitution and move our state forward.
The governor highlighted in his address some of the progress made over the past four years. Taking the state from recurring budget deficits to savings of almost $4 billion, lowering taxes for individuals and business owners, raising teacher pay, building education funding to record amounts, attracting new industry and jobs to our state, and more.
Now, we must turn our attention to the important work that still lies ahead for us. In the coming session, House leadership has determined several priorities including continuing our work on tax reform and education solutions that will help us improve student outcomes and build our future workforce.
To start this work, the House held Organizational Day on Jan. 3. This day is constitutionally required every other year at the beginning of a new Legislature. During this time, we certify election results from the November elections, we formally elect the speaker and speaker pro tempore for the House, and we adopt rules by which we will operate during the legislative session.
Also this week, we started hearing agency budget requests in several of our House Appropriations & Budget subcommittees, including the one I co-chair, A&B Natural Resources and Regulatory Services. We held two days of meetings jointly with the Senate to hear from the agencies under our purview. These include the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry; the Corporation Commission; the Water Resources Board, the Conservation Commission, the state Department of Environmental Quality, the departments of Commerce, Mines and Labor, and the state Tourism and Recreation Department.
These budget performance reviews not only give these agencies a chance to detail their budget requests for the next fiscal year but an opportunity to tell lawmakers and the public about the programs they offer and the services they provide for Oklahomans. We heard from many of these agencies the desire to increase pay for their employees to keep salaries competitive with other similar industries or even other state agencies. We also heard requests for more funding to continue to combat drought relief, which reached a critical level last year. The new director of tourism gave a very candid view of the challenges in that agency but gave us hope of a path forward for this vital state economic driver.
Our legislative session starts Feb. 6 when lawmakers will hear from the governor in his annual State of the State Address. I’m looking forward to another busy session. I will remain a deputy floor leader, which means I’m on the team that helps determine which legislation gets heard on the House floor and when. That’s always interesting. I’ll keep your updated on our progress.