By Scott Fetgatter
State Representative Dist. 16
The Legislative session is three weeks underway, and things are busy, busy at the state Capitol.
scott fetgatterFeb. 28 is the committee deadline for bills to be heard in their chamber of origin. There are some bills that can be considered outside of normal deadlines, such as bills proposed by the speaker of the House or the speaker pro tem and those by the budget chair. But for regular members like myself, our bills have to be passed in committee by the deadline or wait until a future legislative session.
Once bills pass committee they are eligible to be heard on the House floor. We’ve daily been voting on numerous bills and the number of measures on the daily floor calendar is ever increasing.
I passed my first bill on the floor, which was a request from Gov. Stitt to add $5 million to the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund. This fund is an economic development tool that allows the state to act quickly to attract new businesses to Oklahoma or to assist in expansion of current Oklahoma companies. The state has many needs, but one of the most pressing – at least for my area and many other rural communities in the state – is job expansion. We need good quality, higher paying jobs. When our citizens are working, they can do a better job of feeding their families, taking care of their health and more. When citizens have more money, they contribute more to their local communities. This in turn benefits our local schools, our local roads, our local public safety officers and much, much more.
I’ve been very supportive of the needs of our local schools, health care, public safety services and other core needs of government, but I promised my constituents that I would also help our state attract more jobs. This bill is a step toward that goal.
Budget negotiations also are ramping up at the state Capitol, with news from the state Board of Equalization this week that we have $575 million additional revenue this year to appropriate than last year. Some of this money is already dedicated. The House passed a $1,200 teacher pay raise in an attempt to get our state teacher pay to the top in the region. This will help in keeping teachers from moving to surrounding states that pay more. It also should help us put more traditionally certified teachers into our classrooms. Preparing our children with the skills they need to take those high-paying jobs we’re seeking will hopefully keep more of our Oklahoma graduates at home and help us attract more employers to the state.
Part of the money will go to the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges Program. We’ll be taking a look at other agency requests to decide how the rest will be apportioned.