By Rep. Rick West
Tensions have been pretty high at the Oklahoma Capitol recently. I’ve heard from people who are at their wits’ end, people who are tired of politics, people who have flat had enough.
I understand the frustration – really, I do. There have been days where I’ve been fed up, too. But still, I choose to have hope that lawmakers can do things to positively affect the state. I choose to be optimistic that Oklahoma isn’t too far gone. We just need to realign ourselves with conservative principles that matter most to hardworking Oklahomans.
To that end, I’m working with the Department of Wildlife to make changes that benefit folks right here in House District 3. Fortunately, there are positive signs for requests to drop the bag limit on raccoons and extend that particular hunting season. If progress continues and the changes are approved by commissioners, these changes could take effect in the fall of 2019. Wildlife staff has also brush-hogged the plots on Walker Mountain, and they plan to replant them this year.
When we look at legislation benefitting House District 3, things are looking up, too. A bill directing the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO) to provide funds for teacher pay raises is gaining traction. Rep. Tom Gann and I met with House leadership on three different occasions last week, and it’s my belief the bill will receive a hearing soon. Just to reiterate: this legislation specifies funding for raises be in addition to – not in place of – money already given to school districts. We are have no intention of asking the CLO to dip into its corpus.
The Board of Equalization is expected to meet on Feb. 20, and board members will certify a revenue estimate for the upcoming fiscal year. After lawmakers receive the final number, we’ll have a much better idea of how to approach Fiscal Year 2019. I, for one, am expecting good news. State Treasurer Ken Miller reported gross receipts have increased 12 out of the past 13 months. In January, receipts exceeded collections by more than 15 percent over those the prior year. There’s no reason Miller’s reports couldn’t also be signaling a budget surplus
Lastly, thank you to the teachers from Heavener, Poteau and Spiro who came to visit me at the state Capitol last week. I ended up visiting teachers at Poteau’s Pansy Kidd Middle School on Feb. 16, and I spent time with Ms. Manlove, Ms. Vowels, Ms. Darneal and Mr. Wright. It’s evident all the teachers pour everything they have into their students. I enjoyed my time, and I would be more than happy to visit other schools in House District 3 over the next few months.
Being a lawmaker isn’t easy, but I never expected it to be. I fully expected gridlock and dysfunction, but I didn’t know how muddy things could really become. So when there are tense times, I remind myself that we all have a common thread: we’re all Oklahomans. We all want the best for our kids and grandkids. Sometimes we can lose sight of that. My promise to you has always been that I’ll represent LeFlore County and House District 3 at the Capitol, and I’m doing my level best at that.
Please let me know if you need anything. I’m at or you can call 405-557-7413.
Thanks, and God bless our great state.