Oklahoma legislature preview


Friday, February 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


The Oklahoma Legislature goes back to work Monday, with some tough issues waiting for them. The Oklahoma State capitol will be a busy place again on Monday as a new session starts with a stack of issues.

Topping the list is redrawing the lines for congressional districts. State Senator Penny Williams, a democrat from Tulsa says, "redistricting will be the big issue that will be fractious." Senator Williams is one of several lawmakers attending redistricting meetings across the state. It's an extra hot topic because the new lines will mean losing a seat in Congress, so deciding which seat will go promises to be controversial.

Another topic on its way in is the grocery sales tax. State Representative Todd Heitt, a republican from Kellyville says, "we're one of few states that tax groceries I think it's a basic necessity that I don't think should be taxed." Eliminating the tax could save families hundreds of dollars a year. But without that extra $200 million that a grocery tax brings in, legislators are trying to decide how they'll pay for other things, like schools. Senator Williams says, "I just want to do as much for education as we've done for roads and I'll be happy."

With a U.S. President who is pushing education on a national front, legislators are expecting the topic to come to be top of mind in Oklahoma.

And Governor Keating can expect to be a subject with several Democrats intent on probing his acceptance of $240,000 from a New York financier. Senator Williams says "now it won't be anything compared to impeachment or anything like we had on the national scene but it could take up if it get really contentious and partisan and fractious it could take up a lot of time."

But most lawmakers are hoping to spend more time on divvying up the budget.This year the state will see an extra $300-million because of a growing economy and a rainy day fund that's filled with several million more in cash that everyone wants a part of. Representative Heitt says "this year, we do have a couple of emergencies that I think we will be addressing and I think that rainy day dollars to be used for that."

Heitt is talking about those who've suffered losses in winter storms and those looking for help in paying home heating costs. At this point, everyone expects something.