It’s a hard job, and we want to give credit where credit is due. While it might not be popular to state this, I have always had the utmost respect for our state legislative institutions and many of the members who have or are serving in office. Speaking from experience, the hours legislators spend at the Capitol do not reflect the actual time many dedicate to the job. Just like the misnomer that teachers only work 9 months out of the year, I can assure you that most legislators do indeed work around the clock and all months of the calendar year to serve their districts.
Oklahoma has a term-limit law which prohibits citizens from serving more than twelve years in office, with the exception of filling an unexpired term should a seat be vacated. I was honored to not only serve twelve years in the Oklahoma House with some outstanding men and women, but also seven as a non-partisan staffer doing research on issues for legislators. In my new role as the director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, I have continued working with both Republicans and Democrats in both legislative chambers for the betterment of laws and policies for the children of our state.
A story ran recently discussing some legislators who have decided to leave by their own choice and not seek re-election. Such members as Senator AJ Griffin and Representatives Pat Ownbey, Dennis Casey and Dustin Roberts, just to name a few, have been willing through the years to look at other perspectives before casting a vote and often work across party lines on many issues. I wish each of them well with their new endeavors and know they each will continue their service in other ways.
Several outstanding legislators are also terming out, which leaves a vacuum of experience at our state capitol. As reported by the Tulsa World, Fifty-six of the 100 current House members — one seat is vacant — have served less than two terms. Whether you support or oppose term limits, the fact remains that too often it takes a sharp learning curve to overcome before legislators reach their most effective levels.
Special elections recently have sent some new members to our capitol building with tremendous potential for service. Newcomers such as Senator Allison Ikley-Freeman, Paul Rosino and Michael Brooks, along with freshmen Representatives Jacob Rosecrants, Karen Gaddis and Brad Boles, just to name a few, have all shown a willingness to immerse themselves in the job and deliver results. It is important that other new arrivals also quickly learn the processes to best represent their districts.
In order to replace those who have served the state well, it is up to voters to not only cast their ballots for qualified candidates, but also to consider running for office themselves. The filing period for federal, state and legislative offices is just a few short weeks away, with this process happening at the State Capitol on April 11-13, 2018.
If you are interested in running for office, please review the guidelines at https://www.ok.gov/elections/Candidate_Info/Candidate_Filing/ and consider serving. While the pay might not be great and the hours are long, I assure you the need for public servants is critical. Please consider stepping into this role and serving our state!
OICA CEO Joe Dorman