Encouraging signs from this year’s legislative candidates (Capitol Update)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

To put it bluntly there is nearly nothing visible going on inside the Capitol unless you want to count the efforts of the construction workers that are repairing and remodeling the building. The place is pretty much torn up. In most areas it’s very much a construction zone. As fall approaches and activity picks up toward next session working around the mess won’t be easy.

The one thing happening is the weekly meeting of the medical marijuana working group. I’ve attended at least part of each of these meetings, and I’ll say the members of the working group are working. They generally show up having read new material that’s been distributed to them and prepared to ask questions. The issue is complicated and fraught with political risk. The public has spoken, yet many long and strongly held opinions – right and wrong – still exist. The legislators I’ve heard talk about it I think have got it right. Simply do your best to discern what the people have commanded and do it.

With the runoff election about 2 weeks away, most legislative action for now is taking place between legislators, candidates, and their constituents. I’ve had the opportunity to get acquainted with quite a few candidates during the election, and the ones I’ve met are high quality. The issues I hear from them are education, the budget, criminal justice reform, and mental health, pretty much in that order. They say this is what they are hearing from the people.

They seem to be well informed, but ready to learn. Through the years, I’ve seen new members come in angry, ready to burn the building down so to speak, and some who just want to get there to join the party. This year’s candidates – the ones I’ve met – fall in neither category. They are looking for change, but the right kind of change. If my calculus is right, and if the legislative leadership and the new governor have a similar outlook, we could see some real progress in the next couple of years. Nothing good seems to come easily or quickly, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far during the campaigns.

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Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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