Sharp's era of legislative service ends
As new state Senators were sworn in recently, a longtime local delegate for the Shawnee area said goodbye to his office.
An Oklahoma senator for the past eight years, Ron Sharp represented District 17, which comprises portions of Oklahoma and Pottawatomie Counties.
He said he has been honored by his constituents for the opportunity to serve in this capacity.
During Sharp's eight years in office he said he focused on three areas: the state's budgeting and accountability; public education full-funding; and transportation projects in Senate District 17.
Oklahoma, like most states, has become more dependent on federal dollars to provide dollars for its yearly budget, Sharp said. Plus, Oklahoma's revenue sources have been too volatile to use the Zero-Based budgeting process implemented decades ago, he added.
“In 2015, I authored the Performance Informed Budgeting and Transparency Act,” he said. “This requires all appropriated state agencies to prepare performance goals and justify how that agency spends its funds.”
All of the agency's federal, state and local dollars are required to be transparent and available for public accountability, Sharp said.
“It was this lack of transparency and accountability of a for-profit company that benefited from a virtual charter school that resulted in my questioning their funding and spending,” he said. “The allocated state funds based on weighted Average Daily Membership (enrolled students) to the school did not equate to the 95 percent of students required under federal and state law that required to be tested each year.”
Its administration costs also exceeded the statutory five percent cap by 17 percent, he explained.
A stickler for keeping to the straight and narrow, Sharp has made it a mission to hold others to the law, as well.
For instance, the state funding of the local district public schools is required in the Oklahoma constitution.
“Unfortunately, some of our legislators have not read their Constitutional duty,” he said. “It has been my purpose to remind them of their duty.”
Also, a project dear to his heart, Sharp said in 2015 he authored legislation called Oklahoma — A STEM State of Mind.
“This created the model for the STEM Communities and STEM Regions to train teachers and provide the funds for our students to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” he said.
Other states have modeled their STEM education programs from Oklahoma's, he said.
“(Former Gordon Cooper Technology Center President) Marty Lewis was a valuable asset to get this legislation into statute,” Sharp said.
There are more current roads projects in Senate District 17 than any other in the state, Sharp said.
“I am proud to have escalated the time-table and sometimes initiated these projects,” he said.
Sharp said he believes commerce is the force behind economic development — and roads ensure the transport of commerce.
The Interstate 40 project — six to eight lanes from Shawnee to Oklahoma City — is nearly entirely in District 17.
“ODOT approved my requests for service roads on I-40 on McLoud Road,” he said. “The turnarounds on McLoud Road will add convenience to truck and bus traffic.”
He also anticipates benefit to the community of McLoud and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN) from the service roads.
Another project, the new Kickapoo Turnpike — consisting of 22 miles — is 100 percent in District 17, Sharp said.
“Upon the request of the Eastern Oklahoma County Partnership, I initiated this Turnpike which will link The Turner Turnpike (I-44) to I-40,” he said.
Completion is expected in early 2021, he added.
Sharp said he believes the Turnpike will see major economic development within months after it is open.
Some other projects include:
• Keeping extension of Bryan Street to I-40 on eight-year ODOT plan (scheduled to start in 2022);
• Shawnee Kickapoo four-laning project in 2021;
• 177 and Hardesty Road intersection turn lanes, plus bridge repairs;
• 102 hydro repairs and resurfacing;
• Kept all funding for County Improvement for Road and Bridges (CIRB) in Pottawatomie County funded;
• Improved 270 to 177 intersection/four-laning of 177 from 270 to I-40 (will be included in I-40 six-lane project)
Scorecard in office
Sharp's record speaks for itself. The legislator was consistent and present, rarely missing an opportunity to represent his constituents.
• 100-percent attendance at Senate regular sessions for eight years in office (On May 13, 2013, he was excused for the shortened day to escort Gov. Mary Fallin in Senate District 17 to examine tornado damage that occurred May 12-13);
• Sharp holds a 99.47-percent voting record in eight years in office in regular sessions and two special sessions;
• 100-percent attendance record on assigned committees eight years in office (Most recently, the General Government Committee; the Retirement and Insurance Committee where he served as vice chair; and the Judiciary Committee)
• Approved grants for five community Splash pads;
• Approved 19 tax credit projects under Oklahoma Affordable Housing;
• Approved commerce grants for three SD-17 historical museums
• Authored legislation to extend Quality Jobs Act to Oklahoma, Tulsa, and Cleveland Counties;
• Authored legislation to create the Oklahoma A STEM State of Mind Program (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). All Oklahoma STEM programs originated under this legislation/created the STEM Regions (Career Techs sponsor) and STEM Communities (local school district sponsor)
“Nearly every state has copied this legislation,” Sharp said.
• In 2014, was Senate author of legislation that requires the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) with Open Records and Meetings compliance;
• In 2019, authored legislation to transfer STEM programs oversight from the Governor's Science and Technology Secretary (CASMEO) to the Oklahoma Career Technology Board (Stillwater);
• Co-authored nine pro-life bills in the Oklahoma legislature in eight years;
• Authored the 2015 Oklahoma Performance Informed Budgeting and Transparency Act, which placed performance goals on all state agencies and requires all budgets to be accessible to public scrutiny and transparency (Oklahoma's entire budget is based on this legislation);
• Authored the non-custodial visitation rights bill, which enforces the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent as stipulated in the Court Visitation Schedule;
• Senate authored the Dees-Burch Anti-Texting bill;
• Authored legislation redefining the Insanity Plea;
• Senate-authored legislation to require insurance companies to pay for cancer Proton therapy treatments if the physician makes that recommendation;
• Senate author of legislation to allow pictures on cameras on school buses to admissible as evidence to drivers who pass stopped busses loading children;
• Authored legislation to allow for the third-party transport of mental health patients for treatment;
• Authored legislation to provide for uniform pricing for lumber yards;
• Authored legislation to require all Pawn Shops to take pictures and code all items pawned for inspection (supported by Pawn Shops and Law Enforcement agencies);
• Authored legislation to prohibit drones to 400 feet and secure critical infrastructure from drones flying over;
• Was able to maintain funding for public schools with minimal cuts even during major revenue shortfalls;
• Co-authored in 2018 legislation for teacher, support staff, and public employee pay increase;
• Authored legislation to create five-tier Academic Recognition Achievement Diploma (allows for competition in public high schools and recognition of academic excellence/ STEM courses in Career Techs can be used in GPA for Diploma Academic Recognition)
Elected in 2012, Sharp was consistently recognized as one of three Oklahoma legislators accepting each year the least amount of lobbyist funds — less than $100 per year — which includes meals, sport tickets, lodging, golfing, personal gifts, etc.
Before taking office, Sharp was an educator at Shawnee Public Schools for 38 years, teaching government, history and tennis classes.
He graduated high school in Shawnee in 1970, and college in 1974, at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Sharp has received many awards and honors, including Oklahoma Teacher of the Year/Veterans of Foreign Wars (2011), and Shawnee's Teacher of the Year three times (1996, 1997 and 1999).
Sharp's contributions include service under Presidents Bill Clinton; George W. Bush; Barack Obama; and Donald J. Trump.
He has served on several boards:
• Pottawatomie County Jail Trust Advisory Board;
• Board of Pottawatomie County Historical Society;
• Board of Pottawatomie County Genealogical Society; and
• United Stated Selective Service Board (1999-2020)
He is a member of Liberty Baptist Church; Sons of the American Revolution; and of Chambers of Commerce in Shawnee, McLoud, Harrah and Choctaw.
Sharp said he first went into office because a good friend had requested it of him to run.
Now, though he said he would not seek out opportunity to enter office again, he isn't opposed to the notion.
“It's up to whatever the good Lord has in mind for me,” he said.