(Cushing, Okla.) Rep. Lee Denney (District 33) and Sen. Jim Halligan (District 21) wrapped up Legislative Luncheon for the season by giving an overview of the legislative session.
“All in all it was a very noisy, raucous session on the House side,” Denney said with a laugh. “But I think we got a lot done.”
One of the things that topped the list for both Denney and Halligan was redistricting. And though neither got everything they wanted, both said they were pleased with the outcome and the fact it was completed.
Due to Oklahoma’s population growth, Denney’s district went from 34,000 to 37,000.
“I tried to get Drumright, but was unable to,” Denney said. She gave up Langston, but kept Yale, Cushing, Ripley, Perkins, Coyle and some Stillwater.
In Halligan’s district of 79,000, it came down to either losing Guthrie or Cushing. “I wanted Cushing,” Halligan admitted. He went on to say that he believed it was a good outcome because “for the first time, Guthrie and Langston will be able to elect a senator.”
Balancing the $500 million deficit budget presented a lot of challenges – especially when it came to education – a topic especially dear to Halligan.
“It was a most difficult year for common ed and tech,” Halligan said. “Sharp words were exchanged at times. I fought pretty hard, but I couldn’t fight against the need to balance the budget.”
His hope is that “this is the worst year” and that “next year will be better.”
Halligan also mentioned his disappointment in the passage of a bill allowing concealed weapons on career-tech campuses. Phil Wahl, Central Tech, commended Halligan saying, “We appreciate you standing up to the gun lobby. We appreciate you being a statesman.” Halligan was one of the few Republicans who voted against the measure.
Denney and Halligan “tagged team” on the topic of cyber bullying. While both attempted to get something legislated, language proved to be part of the bill’s downfall. “How do you define cyber bullying,” Halligan asked. “How is the school to know when it is going on? Both of these are good questions.”
Denney agreed the language was difficult, but still expressed disappointment. She said House pages “were incredulous” that it failed, citing bullying as a “huge problem in schools”.
Denney continued saying she expects it to be revisited next session and that although it failed this time, she is pleased that it has brought awareness to the problem.
Halligan talked about people “filling the Senate to tell their impassioned stories.”
“I don’t think it’s going away.”
Legislative Luncheon is held the last Friday of the month during legislative session.