EDMOND — Budget reform is expected to be addressed during the upcoming session of the state Legislature, members of the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce were told during a pre-session breakfast Friday.
“Our budget is doing better than other states, but we are not rolling in dough,” said Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We have agencies that singly ask for more money than is available for all agencies to divvy up. We don't have that much more money coming in the coffers.”
Jolley was joined by eight other Edmond-area legislators who briefly talked about what they will be doing when the 54th Oklahoma Legislature session begins Feb. 4.
“I think you are going to see the Legislature looking at budgetary reform as well as getting funding where it needs to be to fund reform.” Jolley said. “We still have not recovered to a pre-recession level of 2009.
“It will not be as large as it was back in 2009 even if we spent everything. And, I don't think that is necessarily what our plans are going to be.”
Legislators are expected to take another look at reforming the workers' compensation system this session, said Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon.
“We plan to seriously look workers' compensation,” Johnson said. “Employers have a big problem.”
Chamber officials support workers' compensation reform because of the problems of the high cost to businesses and low benefits to workers.
Workers' compensation reform was listed in the chamber's 2013 Legislative agenda.
The chamber's top two priorities for Edmond are immediate construction of a new medical examiner's office and assistance from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation in addressing current and future infrastructure needs for Edmond.
Edmond leaders have been pushing for years to build the new medical examiner's office on the University of Central Oklahoma campus across the street from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation's forensic laboratory. The nationally recognized Forensic Science Institute also is on the Edmond campus. Leaders would like to make Edmond a forensic science hub.
The Legislature in 2010 approved moving the medical examiner's office to Edmond, but provided no funding for the move.
UCO officials have come up with a plan to sell bonds through the state regents' master lease program to construct the building on the campus. A House committee last year decided not to kill the idea, meaning there is hope state leaders can nail down the funding for a new office.
Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond, said, “We will try to find solutions. Whatever it takes, we need to get that done.”
Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, said “I see more political will, since my time there, to get that done.”
Several of the legislators were encouraged with leadership changes this session which they think will open the doors for the two houses to work together.
“I am confident that the senate and house will work together much better than they did last year,” Johnson said. “It was kind of two ships passing in the night at times last year.”
The most enthusiastic response from the crowd came as Grau told about his crusade this session to get unnecessary laws off the books.
“I call it low-hanging fruit,” Grau said as the chambers members clapped. “Someone said it is dead wood.”