It is around this time of year that I get excited for new opportunities.  We are less than a month away from the General Election in Oklahoma (the deadline to register, or change your registration, is on this Friday, October 12) and next year we will see a dramatically different Legislature and governor’s office. Because of term limits, retirements, and incumbents falling to challengers, about 70 percent of our state legislators will have two years or less of experience.
 
While that many new faces means that institutional knowledge may be scarce, new blood and fresh perspectives can also inject energy into the process and help in the development of new and exciting policies. At OICA, we have been very encouraged by the number and quality of responses to the surveys we invited candidates to fill-out, offering them a chance to share their vision for helping Oklahoma’s children. You can view these surveys at http://oica.org/legislation/candidate-questionnaire/candidate-questionnaire-results/ on our website.
 
It is also just a couple of weeks from the annual Fall Forum, the two-day conference hosted by OICA to assemble some of the brightest minds in Oklahoma to discuss policy, learn about child-related issues, and help shape a legislative agenda that will benefit the children of Oklahoma.  This conference has produced significant solutions to help better our state and the wellbeing of our children.  The conference this year will be held on October 24 and 25 at the Oklahoma State Capitol and will feature some fantastic opportunities for those who attend.
 
This year, we are proud to kick things off with an analysis of the state’s political environment by Dr. Keith Gaddie from the University of Oklahoma.  Dr. Gaddie recently addressed a gathering of Tulsa Chamber members with a brilliant synopsis of what we face in Oklahoma with conditions impacting our citizenry. This sets the stage for a myriad of issues which we hope to present realistic solutions.
 
Following this opening discussion, we will host a debate between the two candidates for Lieutenant Governor in front of our attendees, which we are in discussions to have broadcast live on the Facebook pages for Channel 9 in Oklahoma City and Channel 6 in Tulsa.  We have also invited each of the candidates for Oklahoma Governor to attend the conference and answer questions, but there has been nothing finalized with the campaigns at this point.
 
This will be followed by a candidate reception to allow delegates the opportunity to meet lawmakers and those seeking office.  All state and local candidates are invited to this event.  We will also hold workshops on various child-related issues to help educate attendees about significant programs impacting our youth.
 
In addition, those who are delegates will help shape the agenda which OICA and other youth programs will promote to lawmakers as desired changes in policy which would impact Oklahoma’s youth.  If you have ever wanted the opportunity to have your voice heard and be a part of the discussion for changes, this will be your chance to have an impact.  If you have ever wanted the chance to sit in the same seats as lawmakers and share ideas for a better Oklahoma for children, this will be your occasion. 
 
Not enough Oklahomans are willing to speak up about the problems we face as a state, and the many ways in which we sometimes fail our children.   Please do not allow someone else to speak for you when it comes to ideas which matter; you are needed if you want to see better results.  Join us at the OICA Fall Forum so you can be assured your ideas are counted.  You can register or get more details at oica.org.