Local legislators support local control of schools

Beverly Bryant - February 24, 2017 3:40 pm

Three legislators representing north central Oklahoma — Rep. Steve Vaughan, Rep. John Pfeiffer and Sen. Eddie Fields — spoke to a standing-room-only crowd Friday in the Ponca City Commission Chamber at City Hall.

All three spoke strongly against a bill proposing school consolidation in predominantly rural areas, Senate Bill 514.

During the public forum, Fields said this was not a forced mandatory consolidation and it’s a dead point.

He called it “a slap in the face of to rural Oklahoma.”

The three also agreed strongly that the most important issue facing the Legislature this session is the budget and the severe cuts to critical services that will come with an $878 million budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2018 and the most recent revenue failure in January, totaling another $34 million.

Rep. Pfeiffer said showing “several pages of sales tax exemptions is not the same as reforming  the tax code.” He said Gov. Mary Fallin’s idea of exemptions is the “start of a plan, but it is not a plan.

“We need genuine tax reform,” Pfeiffer said. “Our economy has shifted to a service economy. The governor must work with the House and Senate leadership to adapt.”

Pfeiffer said new ideas are needed.

“We have 33 new freshmen, which is about a third of our membership. Some of them are getting recognition for saying crazy ideas. We have serious problems and need to focus on those,” Pfeiffer said.

He said 1,700 bills were filed in the House and there is one week left to pass bills out of committee. So far, 55 bills have been passed off the floor.

Pfeiffer said the problem takes a three-prong approach: a spending cut; tax incentives and tax reform.

In answering audience questions, each of the three agreed with House Bill 1013, to give full practice authority to nurse practitioners. Each said it was important to increasing health care in rural Oklahoma.

Each of the three voiced strong opposition to Senate Bill 197, which would, in effect, legalize discrimination based on religious beliefs.

Sen. Fields said SB 197 was hard to describe, but was trying to legislate morality. “It is discrimination based on religious beliefs. If it gets on the Senate Floor, I will vote no.”

Pfeiffer called  the proposal blatantly unconstitutional and said he would not support such a measure.

“We have a huge budget problem and can’t waste time on this,” he said.

Other issues covered in the forum included a proposed half-cent tax on wind generation, local occupational licensing, and Sen. Ralph Shorty’s attempt to change two measures approved in November by voters on drug penalties.

The three thanked the audience for remaining civil during the forum and not screaming, as others have done in other public forums as well as in the Legislature.

To see the recording of the forum by the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce, click here: https://www.facebook.com/64938652616/videos/10154220534277617/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE



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