by Gus Blackwell, Rep.-61
Various people have assigned different grades to the past session of the Legislature. Some people were very pleased with the session. The vice president of the state chamber gave the session an “A” while the president of that organization gave it a “B”.
The 2008 Legislature tackled some very important issues, but some were vetoed by the Governor. One veto that did not stand was a veto on pro-life legislation. This marks the first time that a gubernatorial veto was overridden since 1994.
The Governor and the Legislature did reach an agreement on a bond issue in the amount of $475 million dollars. Revenue from the bond issue will fund repair of the state’s roads and bridges. It will also fund higher education endowed chairs, a low-water dam project on the Arkansas River, control dams in rural Oklahoma, and the American Indian Cultural Center in Tulsa.
Steps were also taken to insure that child care facilities were safer. Licensing requirements were strengthened and DHS was mandated to create an online database. This database contains substantiated complaints and inspection records of all child care facilities in the state.
One giant step for the state was taken to attract new aerospace jobs to the state. The Center for Aerospace Supplier Quality was created to create a partnership of service providers. This will help more adequately meet the needs of the aerospace industry in the areas of education, training, research, and economic development. Since this is the largest industry in the state this will be a great boon for the state economy.
Rural Oklahoma will benefit from a veterinary training program that gives incentives for doctors to locate in sparsely populated areas. These students will receive specialized training targeted to meet the needs of livestock producers in rural communities.
In the wake of grass fires in our area, another law will help reduce the devastation caused by these catastrophes. The Board of County Commissioners working with local fire chiefs can establish by resolution a county burn ban. This will allow a measure of local control specific for our area if needed. A prime example of this is the present drought in Cimarron County contrasted with the floods in the Tulsa area.
A heart felt thanks to those who came out to fight the fires in the Texas County recently. Just like those who have responded in the past in other counties, this was a group of true heroes. Thanks to all the firefighters, law enforcement, county workers, and others who are willing to drop everything and help neighbors in time of need. That’s what makes the panhandle area so special. This group always gets an “A+”.