We have successfully completed three weeks of work and I finally got my chance to be an “obstructionist.” You may remember that I promised in a January column in this paper to use a down-to-earth, common sense approach to legislation with an eye toward protecting working Oklahoma taxpayers. That is what the majority party in the Legislature has determined to be obstructionism. I not only voted against House Bill 1602 but debated against the passage of this bill that hampers working Oklahomans’ ability from taking on corporate bullies. The bill places limitations on attorney contingency fees. In my seven years as your elected representative, I have not heard my constituents clamoring for government interference in private business. This is a big government bill aimed at protecting corporate America at the expense of working Oklahomans.

The State Board of Equalization met this week and certified a budget gap of $900 million. This is the first time that I have heard the House Republicans admit that the heartiness of the state’s budget these past few years is directly a result of high gross production tax receipts. Their claim of the state’s budgetary health being attributed to their fiscal conservatism simply is not true. Anyone who paid attention to the state’s economy in the 1980s would have known that the energy industry has highs and lows, and to place the state’s financial solvency on gross production tax was placing Oklahoma on precarious footing. Because of tax cuts that have primarily benefited the wealthiest Oklahomans, we once again must look at cutbacks in funding, resulting in cuts to state agencies and services for all Oklahomans.

Many of you have called or written about House Bill 1332, the bill many are simply calling “the puppy mill bill.” I want you to know that I am being urged to support and to oppose the bill in equally large numbers.

I have been contacted by numerous animal breeders who are caring and humane in all aspects of their business and who are incensed by this bill because of what they see as imposed government interference in their private business. There are also many animal lovers who are concerned about humane treatment of animals by breeders and, therefore, want government regulation of breeders. At this writing, a committee substitute to the original bill is being drafted, so I am unsure what the final language will be and do not know how I will vote on the bill. It is likely that it will be a couple of weeks before the bill will be heard; it must be heard on the House Floor by the March 12 “house of origin” deadline.

Oklahoma FFA Chapters were at the Capitol on President’s Day, and I was privileged to visit with the Checotah FFA officers and their advisor Jason McPeak. McAlester High School was well represented on Technology Day by Cory Richards and his “Buff TV” students. Cecelia Miers with McAlester’s Child Advocacy Center stopped by to visit about the Center’s work. It was also good to see Dorothy Kennedy with the Girl Scouts and the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition. Emily Dupuy, daughter of Carl and Jolynn, came by the office to talk about her work as a physical therapy student at the OU Health Science Center.

It is always good to see Vice Chief Justice Steven Taylor at the Capitol. State Sen. Richard Lerblance, state Rep. Brian Renegar and I are visible at the Capitol from February through May, but we are fortunate to have Vice Cheif Justice as a year-round McAlester presence at the Capitol.

Do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance to you. Call the toll free number at the Capitol, 800-522-8502, or send an e-mail to terryharrison@okhouse.gov.

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