Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Issues Piling Up for Next Legislative Session in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Issues Piling Up for Next Legislative Session in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

Bonds and water.

Open meetings and a major overhaul of the state's tax incentive system.

With the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature just a few months away, the number of issues facing lawmakers continues to grow.

For several months now, lawmakers have conducted regular meetings examining water-related issues, tax incentives and ways to make government more transparent. And those problems, House Speaker Kris Steele said, will carry over into the next session.

Take, for example, water issues spawned by ongoing concern about water sales to Texas and a federal lawsuit filed by the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations over the Sardis Lake Reservoir. The state's comprehensive water plan and the development of a new, long-term water policy will be the focus of the 2012 Legislature.

"Water will be one of the most important issues we work on during the next legislative session," Steele, R-Shawnee, said earlier this year. "And it's one of the most important issues we face."

With the water plan now complete, both Steele and water committee co-chairman state Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said lawmakers would spend the next legislative session going through the plan and working to develop water policy.

"We see the water plan as a blueprint," Crain said. "But we may not adopt every suggestion that it makes."

But water isn't the only issue facing lawmakers.

University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie said issues such as tax incentives, funding for higher education and corrections also will keep lawmakers busy.

"Corrections will be a big challenge," Gaddie said. "You have an outgoing speaker trying to keep his coalition together."

In addition to calls for a long-term water policy, some members of the Legislature want to change the state's tax incentive system.

Gaddie said that is one issue that voters understand.

"Issues like open records and water policy are difficult," he said. "The public doesn't understand them. But people understand taxes."

On Wednesday, state Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, said he would write legislation to amend the Oklahoma Constitution and require a three-pronged test for any future tax incentives. …

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