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Oklahoma's largest group of freshman lawmakers reflects on first session

Oklahoma Capitol building
Posted at 7:42 PM, Jun 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-16 23:15:50-04

TULSA, Okla. — The 2019 legislative session hosted the most new lawmakers Oklahoma has ever seen. Everyone from school administrators to business owners and farmers joined the ranks.

Jenks representative Sheila Dills said the state was ready for some changes.

"I think there was a stalemate. We couldn't seem to get Oklahoma moving in the right direction. We had rankings that were at the bottom of almost every category that we have," she said.

Now as they plan for next year, legislators tell 2 Works for You they were able to achieve some wins, like the $157 dollars put towards education.

"The education budget is the biggest thing. That's the biggest win in my heart and for me. As a product of the teacher walkout we had money to spend this year for the first time in years," Tulsa representative Melissa Provenzano said.

Lawmakers said as they work with both parents and teachers, they believe the landscape of education is shifting. Provenzano expects it will continue to be a priority in the year ahead.

"We're still well-below where we were for funding levels in 2008. But now we can see what we can do with that money and spend it wisely, don't be wasteful about it," she said.

Legislators are also proud of colleagues that reached across party lines, showing an ability to work together at the capitol.

"It was easy to go to someone else's office and sit down and have a civil conversation and we really took personalities out of it and focused on the issues. So we looked at the facts. It was just really solid collaboration," Dills said.

In addition to schools, the representatives said criminal justice reform and Medicaid will get a bigger focus next session.
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