Providing the best quality education for our state’s students has been a top priority during my firstt term in the Legislature. Following years of hard work to increase teacher salaries, textbook funding and support staff pay, I was proud to vote for the largest common education budget in state history. The common education budget for Fiscal Year 2019 is 20% larger than the previous year and will provide teacher pay raises ranging from $6,000 to $8,500 based on years of teacher tenure.
More work must be done to improve the state’s education system and I am committed to pursuing additional reforms to improve educational outcomes. According to the State Regents for Higher Education, nearly 40 percent of Oklahoma college students must take some kind of remedial class before they can handle college-level material. We MUST promote math, science, technology, and engineering in our schools if we are to ensure our children are ready for the 21st century economy. We need rigorous state educational standards to prepare our students and must hold our schools and state educational leaders accountable for preparing our students for the future. We should continue seeking creative avenues, including school vouchers, to provide the best opportunities for Oklahoma students regardless of their family’s financial status or zip code.
Access to health care is one of the biggest obstacles facing Oklahomans. Oklahoma faces a severe shortage of physicians and other health care providers, particularly in rural areas. And as more providers leave practice due to the growing bureaucratic headaches and an aging physician workforce, this problem is only getting worse. I am increasingly concerned about who will be there to treat my friends, family and myself as we get older. I believe that there is much more that the state can be doing to KEEP our current providers AND attract new ones to the state. I have championed several pieces of legislation to address health care access and will continue to work on the following challenges still prevalent throughout the state. First, we must continue working to reduce the taxes and bureaucratic red tape that hinder any business. Oklahoma should be an attractive environment for all forms of business, including health care. I am a strong believer that patient safety and providing high quality care should be our health care providers’ top priorities, not wading through government mandates and paperwork.
Second, we need to make sure that we have the ability to keep the health care providers who so want to be here. Oklahoma currently has more students in medical school than we have available residencies. Many of our best and brightest–in whom taxpayers have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars–are forced to leave the state and are very unlikely to return. As your Senator, I have worked with our state’s medical schools and hospitals to find creative ways to make sure that those new doctors who want to stay here have the ability to do so.
Finally, we need to work to provide incentives to encourage more people to enter health care fields. In addition to physicians, we do not have enough nurses, physician assistants and other health care providers. We should be looking at how we compare to our surrounding states to be certain that our reimbursement rates and other incentives can compete with anyone in our region. I’ve fought for these initiatives during my first term and will continue to do so as your state Senator in the Legislature.
Oklahoma is being devastated by an opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives and affected thousands more. Nearly 500 Oklahomans died from an opioid overdose last year. In 2016 alone, there was enough hydrocodone prescribed in the state to give every man, woman and child in Oklahom
In my first term in the Legislature, I fought for measures to limit the amount of painkillers physicians can prescribe, increase reporting standards for physician prescriptions, cut down on forged or non-medically necessary prescriptions and improve drug rehabilitation services to Oklahomans in need. As a parent and a physician, I feel we morally obligated to do everything I can to prevent these senseless deaths and help those caught in the throes of addiction. I will continue this fight in my next term at the state Capitol.
I am 100% committed to the pro-life movement and as Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee have done everything I can to help promote a culture of life in our state. As the father of an adopted daughter, I know firsthand the joy that can be brought about through tough circumstances. In my second term, I will do everything in my power to promote alternatives to abortion by making it easier for Oklahomans to adopt, increasing the services available to women who choose to carry their babies and improving the state foster care system.