Senator Charlie LAster
Democratic Floor LEader
Senate District 17
Pottawatomie, Oklahoma and Cleveland Counties
For Immediate Release: January 30, 2009
Senate Democratic Caucus Unveils Legislative Agenda
Senate Democratic Caucus Unveils
Senators Want to focus on the Economy, Health Care
and Education to Build a Brighter Future for all Oklahomans
Democratic leaders unveiled their legislative agenda for the first
session of the 52nd Oklahoma Legislature focusing on policies that
will energize Oklahoma’s economy, strengthen Oklahoma’s middle
class, focus on Oklahoma’s health and build a brighter future for
“Oklahomans want access to affordable health care, they want an
education system that allows their children to become all they
were intended to become and they want an economy that will produce
good paying jobs,” Democratic Leader Charlie
Laster said. “This legislative session, the Senate
Democratic caucus will fight everyday to make our voices heard on
the issues that matter most to Oklahomans and policies that will
make a real difference in the lives of our people.”
Senator Laster (D-Shawnee) pointed to policies that will help lift
Oklahoma into greatness as top priority for the Senate Democratic
Caucus including the following priorities:
• Building on Oklahoma’s strength in the energy sector to grow the
economy and protect the environment
• Make college education more affordable for more Oklahoma
families and protect public schools from potential budget cuts
• Strengthening Oklahoma’s middle class
• Affordable health care that focuses on insurance reform and
“Focusing on these important priorities in the upcoming session,
we hope to empower more Oklahomans to make choices in their life
that will lead to a brighter future for them and their families,”
Laster said. “We have a responsibility to fight for policies that
matter to them, rather than focus on policies that help the
powerful special interests that roam these capitol halls.”
Laster said in a year when budgeting will be tight it will be more
important than ever to prioritize investments that will help grow
“The national economy is a train wreck and we’ve been fortunate in
Oklahoma that our economy is still strong. But we know we must be
pro-active in creating policies that will continue the growth we
have seen in recent years,” Laster said. “That includes ensuring
we are building on our strength in the energy sector to become a
national leader in alternative energy technology, investing wisely
in education to grow our workforce, creating policies that
increase access to affordable health care to lower the number of
uninsured in our state and investing in infrastructure
improvements across our state to create jobs.”
Laster said in this session, when Republicans have control of the
upper chamber for the first time in the history of Oklahoma, the
Senate Democratic Caucus wants to work with their counterparts
across the aisle to foster ideas that will move Oklahoma forward.
“Senator Coffee has indicated that he is committed to keeping the
Senate a place where all ideas are embraced despite political
party and we intend to hold him to those intentions,” Laster said.
“Now is not the time for Republicans to play payback politics for
the years they spent in the minority. Now more than ever, we must
work together to protect Oklahoma’s families from the consequences
of a lagging economy,” Laster said. “We stand ready and willing to
help the Republicans govern effectively and in the best interest
of all Oklahomans.”
Senate Democratic Legislative
“Building a Brighter Future”
1: Energize our
Support new energy technology
in a unique position to lead the country in new energy technologies.
* We have
built our great state based on our strength in the oil and gas industry and we
should make it a priority to build on that strength to bring new high paying
jobs to our citizens while helping to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and
protect our environment.
are limitless here in Oklahoma to invest our natural resources to create new
renewable resources such as wind power, compressed natural gas and bio-fuel
will support economic development initiatives and other incentives to help grow
this sector of our economy because we know in a lagging economy, investing in
our natural resources to become the national leader in new energy technology
that will protect our economy, protect the environment and provide jobs for our
*We stand ready to bring our ideas to the table.
Protect our water
*One of our
greatest natural resources is our water and the aquifers that rest below the
this groundwater has always been a priority for Senate Democrats and in fact we
passed legislation by Senator Gumm a few years ago that put a moratorium on the
sale of our water.
fight to keep these necessary protections in place.
*We also believe a
statewide water plan will protect our water for years to come and help our
communities solve the problems they have in regards to water shortages.
roads and bridges
*It is no
secret our roads and bridges are in bad shape. The great news is over the past
few years, we have been able to make important investments in our state’s
in our roads and bridges we stand a greater chance of attracting businesses
looking to move here and allow our citizens to feel safe when they travel our
*We know in a
tight budget year, new money will be hard to come by for road projects, but we
should stand ready to support any federal economic stimulus package that would
invest money in Oklahoma’s infrastructure needs.
our Middle Class
Middle class tax cuts
*We are aware
in a tight budget year further tax cuts could cripple our government’s ability
to fund critical services upon which all our citizens depend.
*If there are
serious discussions about tax cuts we believe they should be limited to
tax cuts that benefit the majority of Oklahoma’s population which fall in the
like an increase in the standard deduction, an earned income tax credit or
eliminating the sales tax on groceries are all tax cuts that help Oklahoma’s
middle class the most and should be at the forefront of any discussion about the
tax system in our state.
Target economic development investments
*In the past
Senate Democrats have been instrumental in making certain the Governor’s efforts
to invest in EDGE become a reality.
EDGE funding because we understand it is critical to sending a message to others
around the country that Oklahoma is serious about bringing high-tech companies
and the jobs they will create to our state.
Remember rural Oklahoma
*In a tight budget
year, we understand it will be our job to look at our budget and see where we
can find inefficiencies and help our state agencies make the most of the funding
*But we are
concerned that Republicans have a mentality to simply slash critical programs
that stand as safeguards to those living in rural Oklahoma and to some of our
most vulnerable citizens.
*We will be
supporting a resolution by Senator Tom Ivester to protect senior nutrition
programs from any budget cuts that might be necessary to balance the budget.
*We understand rural
Oklahoma communities depend on rural ambulance service and rural fire
departments to keep their communities and their citizens safe.
*Even in tight
budget years, we believe we can find more funding for these critical services
and thus protect the rural Oklahoma way of life
3. Build a
*OHLAP is making
college a reality for more of our citizens than ever before. As a result, more
students are graduating from college and we are increasing the number of college
educated citizens in our workforce. But there is still work to be done on this
*College tuition is
merely a fraction of the related expenses Oklahoma families face when sending
their children to our universities. Books and fees can and often do double the
amount a family spends to make certain their child has the potential to realize
their dream of a college education.
expanding OHLAP to cover the cost of books and fees for Oklahoma college
students will ease the pinch of the pocketbooks of Oklahoma families who have
children in college.
Reign in out of control tuition increases
believe funding higher education at the appropriate levels will be critical to
reigning in the skyrocketing tuition costs. We stand ready to fight any cuts
Republicans might seek to the budgets of our colleges and the board of Regents.
*In a down economy,
we do not believe cutting funding to education is the right direction to take
our state and we will fight any politician who thinks education should be cut
during the budget process.
Fight back-door school consolidation
*One sure way to
kill rural communities would be to force them to close their doors. We will
fight any Republican effort, backdoor or not, to force rural school
consolidation on patrons who depend on their school to be the lifeblood of their
*SJR 1 by Senator
Gumm will send to a vote of the people a measure that would change our
constitution to allow patrons of local schools districts to make decisions
concerning the consolidation of their schools.
4. Focus on our
Making coverage count
Democrats want to end the practice of insurance companies making record breaking
profits on the backs of the most sick and vulnerable among us and have filed a
host of bills to send a message to insurance companies that they will be held
accountable to their policy holders.
again this year fight for a patient bill of rights so that doctors, and not
insurance company bean counters, are in charge of the medical decisions of their
*Senate Bill 14
by Jim Wilson requires insurance companies to pay for procedures that
medical professionals deem medically necessary.
*We will also
fight to end insurance discrimination against autistic children and those
patients who choose to participate in clinical trials.
*Senate Bill 1
creates “Nick’s Law” which ends insurance discrimination against autistic
*Senate Bill 263
creates “Steffanie’s Law” which requires insurance companies to pay for
medical treatment of Oklahomans who choose to participate in clinical trials.
*We will also
seek to give greater authority to Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner to
investigate rate hikes by insurance companies and allow the insurance
commissioner to collect restitution on behalf of Oklahoma families who have been
wronged by their insurance provider.
*Senate Bill 1068
by Senator Charlie Laster will allow the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner to
file suit against insurance companies who negligently raise insurance rates.
Prevention and Personal Responsibility are Key
*Obesity is a
major problem in Oklahoma. We know this problem can’t be solved overnight and
that it will take the cooperation from businesses, health care professionals,
community leaders and our citizens to reverse this obesity trend in Oklahoma.
responsibility is key to helping wage this war against obesity and that is why
we will support a bill that will direct chain restaurants to provide nutritional
information to their patrons.
*Senate Bill 1135
by Senator Randy Bass directs chain restaurants to provide nutritional
information to consumers.
* We also
believe preventive screening against deadly diseases such as colorectal cancer
will go a long way to making our state healthy.
Bill 326 by Senator Debbe Leftwich
insurance companies to pay for early detection cancer screening.