Varied backgrounds of elected officials can bring innovative solutions (Capitol Update)

The Health Services and Long-Term Care Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives will be holding an interim study to explore a possible job training partnership between Oklahoma CareerTech and the Department of Corrections (DOC) that would train incarcerated non-violent offenders to become Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) to provide care for others within DOC custody who require hospice care.

As incarcerated persons serving lengthy terms become older, the costs of incarceration increase because of their health care needs. Hospice care, often requiring 24-hour care, is part of that expense. In addition, the CNA training for those within DOC custody could provide opportunities to fill a much-needed gap in health care providers that exists outside of DOC while also providing employment for offenders when they are released.

The study was requested by Rep. Cindy Roe, R-Lindsay, and Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid. Rep. Roe is a working nurse practitioner and, with two physicians, co-owns a medical clinic in Pauls Valley. Rep. Caldwell is the Executive Director of an Enid non-profit organization that provides hospice services for those with serious illness. They have combined their awareness of the shortage of CNAs in the open economy with the needs and funding shortages of DOC to see if they can get something going to help solve both problems.

One of the things we as citizens do not always think about is the broad perspective members of the Legislature collectively bring to our system of self-government. The Oklahoma House and Senate are made up of “we the people” who are elected and come from various backgrounds and areas of expertise. Each member adds to the mix, making the whole literally greater than the sum of its parts. This study will not make the front pages, but multiply the efforts of Reps. Roe and Caldwell by many others and it is easy to see why our system of government, when it is working as intended, works well.


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.

2 thoughts on “Varied backgrounds of elected officials can bring innovative solutions (Capitol Update)

  1. One advantage of parliamentary, proportional representation is the diversity of legislative representatives. We see pretty much lawyers go into public office, with the occasional “business” perspective–which seems to fail especially miserably. Take a look at the book’s of Germany’s Bundestag from all parties. Engineers, teachers, tradespeople, economists, and even some lawyers. Maybe that’s why they can have a Covid-19 death rate/1 000,000 that is a quarter of ours, they have universal health care, and their economy isn’t as hammered as ours.

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