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Senate GOP Leader Grades Session C+

Senate Republican Floor Leader James A. Williamson discusses 2003 session.

Republicans Thwart Tax Increase Several Republican Reforms Enacted,
But Dem Control of Legislature Leads to Missed Opportunities State Capitol, Oklahoma City Senate Republican Floor Leader James Williamson gave the justended legislative session a grade of C+. Republicans were successful on several fronts, but with the Legislature and the governors office in Democrat control, many important reforms were killed this session. The greatest Republican success was stopping Democrat efforts to raise taxes on the people of Oklahoma, which economists agree would be the worst thing to do in this slow economy. The Democrats tax increase proposals were jobkillers, stated Williamson, RTulsa. We are also very proud that the Republican proposal to fund education first both this year and in future years was adopted. Funding education first and early ensures that education is funded appropriately and isnt held hostage late in the session as leverage for tax increases, he said. The greatest failure of the Democratcontrolled Legislature and Governor Henry was their total lack of proposals to grow our economy and create jobs. The Democrats entire economic plan has been to enact jobkilling tax increases and to turn Oklahoma into the Las Vegas of the Bible belt, which would put an enormous strain on our states social welfare services. The biggest challenge for Republicans in the next session will be to break through the Democrats groupthink mentality to enact economic reforms that will get Oklahomas economy moving again, he said. Republicans were successful on several fronts, however. Zerobased budgeting will ensure that all spending by state agencies is analyzed and justified. The people of Oklahoma will vote next year on our proposal to strengthen protections for the states Rainy Day Fund. Republican pressure helped kill a proposed moratorium on future lawsuit reform, which Governor Henry and Democrats sought as part of their watereddown medical liability reform bill. And we won some modest education reforms, such as allowing school districts to save money by sharing some personnel and services, Williamson said. Meanwhile, the Legislatures majority Democrats successfully killed a number of reform proposals, leading to missed opportunities to move Oklahoma forward.
REPUBLICAN SUCCESSES No tax increase: Republicans blunted Democrat efforts to enact a general tax increase, which economists agree would severely hamper Oklahomas weak economic recovery.
Education funded first: For the first time in memory, the common education budget was funded first in the budget process, as Republicans proposed. The Legislature also adopted the GOP proposal to require education to be funded by April each year.
Zerobased budgeting: Requires state agencies to justify every dollar they spend from the first to the last, and will help the Legislature better analyze the effectiveness and performance of state agencies and programs through the creation of a joint zerobased budgeting committee.
Rainy Day Fund Protections: There will be a public referendum in 200 on providing new protections for money in the states Rainy Day Fund.
Modest education reform: The Legislature enacted financial incentives to encourage and reward voluntary school consolidation, and passed legislation to allow school districts to share some services and personnel.
No moratorium on future tort reform: Republicans led the effort to ensure that no moratorium on future tort reform was included as part of the watereddown medical lawsuit reform package.
DEMOCRAT MISSED OPPORTUNITIES No economic growth and job creation: Democrats provided no plan to get Oklahomas economy moving again and to encourage the creation of new private sector jobs in our state, while rejecting GOP proposals. Instead, Democrats repeatedly proposed jobkilling tax increases and worked to expand gambling in Oklahoma, which will put strains on Oklahomas social welfare programs.
No workers compensation reform: Democrats did not allow consideration of Republican proposals that would lower workers compensation insurance rates for businesses and increase compensation awards to workers.
No comprehensive tort reform: Instead of adopting comprehensive lawsuit reform for the entire business community, the Democratcontrolled Legislature adopted a watereddown proposal affecting only a small segment of the medical community. In addition, Governor Henry vetoed SB , which included a lawsuit reform provision requiring that expert testimony in medical liability cases be provided by a licensed Oklahoma medical professional with expertise in the field.
No teacher protection: Senate Democrats voted down a Republican proposal to restore order and discipline to school classrooms by providing educators with protections from frivolous lawsuits.
No prolife: On a straight partyline vote, Senate Democrats voted down a Republican informed consent bill that would have required abortionists to provide women seeking abortions with information on fetal development, fetal pain, and health risks associated with abortions. It also included a 2 hour waiting period from the time the information is presented and the time an abortion is performed.
No Tax Relief: The Legislature failed to enact any tax relief for Oklahoma families or small businesses, and Senate Democrats twice rejected GOP legislation providing tax relief to Oklahoma retirees.
No Significant Education Reform: Although some modest reforms were enacted, the Legislature passed HB , which that reversed important education reforms of the past decade and reduced the control of local school boards over the states public education system. Majority Democrats also refused to hear many education reforms in committee, such as bills providing tax credits for teachers who use their own money to purchase school supplies.

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Senator James A. Williamson Senate Republican Leader 0 22