The Altus Kiwanis Club and Altus Chamber of Commerce held their third of four Legislative Luncheons for the year with Representative Charles Ortega and Senator Mike Schulz on Friday, April 25, at Western Oklahoma State College.
Ortega and Schulz provided the latest updates on bills that have either passed or failed during this legislative session at the State Capitol.
The Congressmen took turns speaking about the pressure during the last weeks between the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the strain in hearing all of the proposed bills before their deadline of Thursday this past week.
Senator Schulz lead-off by commenting on the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision on Monday, to reprieve inmates awaiting the death penalty and later taking back that order on Wednesday. Schulz said the event was pretty significant having been a violation of the Constitution since the Court does not have such authority. The execution is scheduled for Tuesday.
Schulz said that in the past two weeks there has been a lot of discussion about the actions by Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton, to speed up the processing of inmates through the D.O.C. Counties in Oklahoma, including Jackson County, are recognizing a shortage of revenue as a result.
“Some counties figure that [revenue] into the operation of their facilities, and when he started cleaning jails out really quick, County Sheriffs were going, ’Wait a minute. Time out. You’re maybe doing this a little too fast,” Schulz said.
Schulz spoke about several bills that have passed through the senate concerning unemployment rates to help protect employers, and a bill for school funding in the amount of $30 million with an annual increase.
As for gross production taxes, Schulz said they are still trying to come up with a package that will offer incentives to both little and big industrial companies equally, but have not yet come to an agreement.
Before Representative Ortega spoke, WOSC sophomore President, Shelby Thornton, recognized Ortega for his support of WOSC.
“We just want to give you a resolution on behalf of the student body to thank you for the support that you give to Western and to all of our students, and this is just a little token of our appreciation,” Thornton said. “So, Thank you.”
Ortega began by speaking about the honor he has in representing Southwest Oklahoma as well as the strain that is present while hearing “hopefully, life enhancing bills” during the legislative session .
Ortega then addressed bills that passed through the House, one regarding proposed tax cuts reducing the rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, another for State Trooper pay raises, and also “smaller” bills concerning domestic violence and drinking and driving.
Bills that did not pass the House include bonding for Capitol building repairs in the amount of $160 million, and authorizing charter schools to open outside Tulsa County and Oklahoma County. As far as a resolution on State employee pay raises, Ortega said, “stay tuned. Hopefully there will be good news.”
The next Legislative Lunch will be held June 12, at WOSC.