Avoiding trooper furloughs, adult stem cell research and rural economic development are among the issues being discussed in the House of Representatives.

Thanks to an additional allocation of $2.5 million to the Department of Public Safety, state troopers will avoid furloughs in the next fiscal year. The appropriation is intended to prevent an unnecessary reduction in troop presence on our roads, which could save lives.


Avoiding trooper furloughs, adult stem cell research and rural economic development are among the issues being discussed in the House of Representatives.
Thanks to an additional allocation of $2.5 million to the Department of Public Safety, state troopers will avoid furloughs in the next fiscal year. The appropriation is intended to prevent an unnecessary reduction in troop presence on our roads, which could save lives. Yet, even with this $2.5 million, the department must implement some cuts which will result in the diminution of services of departmental personnel such as driver’s license examiners through attrition.
Prior to the agreement, the Department of Public Safety was facing a $6.3 million total budget reduction, which would have resulted in the elimination of patrol academies, loss of a new Troop K headquarters in north-central Oklahoma, decreases in operational expenses,  and furloughs for each of the remaining 800 highway patrol troopers. Because of the infusion of new funding, furloughs will not occur and establishing a new Troop K headquarters remains a possibility. Reductions that impact operating costs such as gasoline for patrol cars will be absorbed within the budget framework.
In an unrelated issue, the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Board of Directors voted to provide funding for adult stem cell research beginning in fiscal year 2010. It became apparent after a legislative study that the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund is an excellent source to fund this research.
 Legislators, in conjunction with the board, determined to dedicate $500,000 for a year-long planning phase, followed by $1 million per year for the following five-year implementation phase, for a total of $5.5 million. Adult stem cell therapies have the potential to provide cures for many diseases and already more than 70 treatments or ailments utilize adult stem cells, which do not require the destruction of human embryos. By focusing on this promising research, Oklahoma could attract new businesses, create high-paying jobs, and save lives.
 In addition, the project could result in significant medical breakthroughs that improve the lives of all Oklahomans.
Finally, a revenue source has been identified to fund the Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) at 7 percent less than last year’s level. The appropriation will derive from an increase in the fine for delinquent tag renewal from $0.25 to $1 a day, with a maximum penalty of $100. Because of the vast infrastructure needs of rural Oklahoma, the Legislature determined to identify a solution to fund REAP before adjournment. Protecting the funding for this program could enhance the economic development of the rural areas, and benefit our entire state.
Please feel free to contact me anytime with input, opinions, or questions related to state government. I can be reached at (405) 557-7345 or by email at krissteele@okhouse.gov.