A Feast Of Information Served At Legislative Luncheon


March 14, 2019

Countywide & Sun/Suzie Campbell

Sen. Jason Smalley, Rep.Dell Kerbs, Rep. Danny Sterling and Sen. Ron Sharp take a few minutes to breathe before the Tecumseh Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon begins, last Friday.

Veteran state senator Ron Sharp was down in his back and pretty much down on state government as he addressed a legislative luncheon in Tecumseh last week, but got some support from his colleagues.

"I'm carrying the bad bills on my back," said Sharp, who represents Shawnee, the Bethel area and part of Oklahoma County. His efforts to impose controls over virtual charter schools "haven't been successful so far, but I haven't given up. Serious investigations are going on."

Sharp was one of four legislators speaking at the Tecumseh Chamber of Commerce's first legislative luncheon of the year. He said his objective this session is "to get as much money into education as possible."

While pre-K and all day kindergarten have no funding mechanisms, he said, charter schools are receiving state money even though they bring in no ad valorem money to add to the funding.

"They should never have been created that way," said the retired Shawnee teacher, who has been targeted by other legislators and lobbyists for his efforts.

Sharp said he is also concerned about changes to allow the governor to appoint agency heads. "Sooner or later we'll have a bad governor and an unstable government ... I jut don't like what's going on," he said.

Sharp was followed by Sen. Jason Smalley of Stroud, who represents Tecumseh in addition to most of Lincoln and Seminole counties.

"I want to take up for Ron," he said. "I think you have been successful in exploring some of the problems with charter schools."

Smalley has himself been the target of attacks from pro-life forces unhappy when he, as chairman of the Senate health and human services committee, refused to hear a bill that would have classified abortion as murder. Smalley - and many others - were convinced the bill was unconstitutional and would have serious consequences.

In an advertisement placed in area newspapers last week, Smalley said "pro-life legal experts believe that putting the matter into the hands of a liberal court would open our state up to the reversal of very significant pro-life measures that have become law in our state."

His decision resulted in a personal attack on him by "a few extremists who recklessly threaten to set the pro-life movement back."

Smalley said it has been "the toughest session I've ever been part of."

Earlier in the program, Rep. Dell Kerbs, whose District 26 includes Shawnee and Bethel, said the session is "moving extremely fast - We had 69 bills by Thursday." He said he is working on "more transparency" and the charter schools questions, as well as a teacher pay raise.

"I'm just proud to be 63 years old and be called a freshman again," said Dist. 27 Rep. Danny Sterling. The Tecumseh Republican, serving his first term, noted that there are 46 "freshmen" in the House of Representatives.

"It's such a challenge not to have the background," he said. "We have a crazy three months ahead of us."

Sterling, a longtime vo ag teacher and Tecumseh High School principal, said his concern "is taking care of the community I come from." He said he is looking forward to next year "when I'll know better what I'm doing."

The legislators responded to several questions from the audience, including one from Carolyn Parks about bills relating to nurses. Smalley discussed one which would allow certified nurse anesthesiologists to work without a doctor's supervision. The bill has strong opposition.

"I don't know how we are going to make health care better," said Smalley. "Health care is changing. It has become a rural versus urban issue, a money issue. Forty other states allow certified nurse anesthesiologists to work alone."

Edwina Butler-Wolfe, governor of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, asked about the future of gaming compacts. Sharp said he assumes Lisa Billy, a former legislator named by Gov. Stitt to handle Native American matters, "will have tremendous influence."

They were also asked where revenue from medical marijuana sales will go. Sharp said it will go into the general fund. Kerbs commented that people have "put in grow houses without knowing what the final regulations will be, and Sharp got one last laugh by commenting that it will "take a year to weed out all the problems."

Countywide & Sun/Suzie Campbell

Shawnee Absentee Governor Edwina Butler-Wolfe addresses questions to the legislative panel regarding gaming compacts.


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