Progress made, but more work ahead

RICHARD P. RUSH Published: June 6, 2009
With the 2009 legislative session behind us, our state legislators are to be congratulated. Many bills they passed and Gov. Brad Henry signed let the world know Oklahoma is truly open for business. We’re now more competitive than ever in the race for new economic development and jobs — good jobs — for Oklahomans.

Topping the accomplishments was The State Chamber’s No. 1 priority — major legal reform. These changes will fairly compensate injured Oklahomans and at the same time discourage frivolous lawsuits. Access to affordable health care should increase, as Oklahoma should no longer lose doctors, nurses and prosperity to states with better laws.

Insurance costs were addressed in other bills as well. New policies will soon be offered to healthy Oklahomans younger than 40, without costly mandates. The Insure Oklahoma! Program — where employers, employees and the state share employee health insurance costs — will offer more low-price choices, like high-deductible health savings accounts, to cover major medical expenses. Funding for Tulsa’s Oklahoma State University Medical Center guarantees osteopathic physicians who often work in rural and underserved areas.

The new 21st Century Quality Jobs Program should attract high-paying jobs in growth industries. Innovative bills to allow cities, towns and counties to pool resources on economic development projects are certain to pay off, especially in rural Oklahoma.

Water is critical to our daily lives and commerce. It is a resource that needs to be developed and used to benefit our state. On average 35 million acre feet flow out of Oklahoma annually to become polluted in the Gulf of Mexico. House Bill 1483 gives Oklahomans priority to use Oklahoma water while opening the door for future water sales to others if they meet certain statutory criteria.

In education, professionals from the private sector can more easily become math and science teachers.