In a 46-1 vote, the Senate passed a plan today to keep Oklahoma communities safe by giving DOC the funding they need to hire more correctional officers in Oklahoma prisons.
The plan must receive approval from the Republican controlled House before the bill can be signed into law by Governor Brad Henry. But Speaker Hiett and other Republicans in the Legislature have said the public safety crisis can wait until next year and have introduced their own plan that advocates deficit spending.
“Their plan is based on a ‘promise now-pay later’ mentality,” Morgan, (D-Stillwater) said. “Our plan is based on an ‘act now to keep Oklahomans safe’ mentality.”
Morgan said waiting until February to enact a supplemental appropriation for the Department of Corrections (DOC) would not solve the public safety crisis that places one correctional officer to every 135 prisoners.
“We absolutely cannot wait until February to hire more correctional officers.” Morgan said. “We led the charge against others who are willing to take a gamble with the lives of innocent Oklahomans because we want to ensure that those who have raped, murdered and stolen from Oklahoma families remain behind bars.”
Senator Corn, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary, said Republicans in the Senate today engaged in political grandstanding by debating against the effort to end the public safety crisis, and then casting “yes” votes for the bill.
“Senator Coffee said he could hardly wait to vote on a bill that gave correctional officers the pay and the help they so truly deserve,” Corn, (D-Poteau) said. “Perhaps if Senator Coffee felt so passionate about the idea he would have introduced legislation himself that did just that.”
Corn also said that during debate Senate Republicans repeatedly accused Democrats of under-funding DOC. Corn said the truth is the Public Safety and Judiciary Subcommittee budget proposal submitted by Senate Republicans during the 2005 regular session was $16.8 million dollars short of what the Democratic majority in the Senate actually approved.
“This is a classic example of talking out of both sides of your mouth,” Corn said. “It doesn’t surprise me they did this today, because it is the very same irresponsible and misleading behavior we have seen from Senate Republicans for years.”
Corn said he continues to be disappointed that Republicans are spreading half-truths and misleading Oklahomans by calling the Senate Democratic plan an “early release” plan.
“It sounds like to me they are the party engaged in political grandstanding by using the term ‘early release’ as a shiny object to distract Oklahomans who agree with us that something needs to be done now to keep Oklahomans safe.” Corn concluded.