Capital Corner

by Gus Blackwell

One of the highlights of being at the Capitol is seeing the recognition ceremonies that are held in the House Chamber. The past week we had the privilege of meeting and honoring two different heroes. One was an individual and one was a unit, but both are undeniably deserving of our greatest thanks.

On Monday Mr. Harry Hoots of Chandler Oklahoma was honored for his service with the 377 th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion of the 101 st Airborne Division. During the D-Day invasion he was captured and held as a POW after being dropped mistakenly behind enemy lines. During his subsequent captivity he was nearly starved to death and had several fingers amputated for his refusal to divulge information to his captors. Mr. Hoots' resilience and leadership throughout his career in the military and as a citizen are certainly worthy of recognition.

On Tuesday the combined House and Senate convened to honor the 45 th Infantry Division and the National Guard Members who have served in recent years. This division was created in 1923 and retired in 1968 in a reorganization of the National Guard divisions.

This division had fought in some of the greatest battles in WWII including Sicily, southern France and Germany where it liberated the Nazi death camp at Dachau. Major General Harry “Bud” Wyatt III memorialized them with the following words. “So as we pause to reflect upon the great service of the 45 th Infantry Division and all the units of the Oklahoma National Guard, I say to you that the tradition that the 45 th Infantry Division displayed in WW II and Korea continue on today and you can be extremely proud of the service of our Oklahoma Air and Army National Guard.”

Remember to thank those veterans, both young and old who have sacrificed for their country so we can remain free. It is a great honor to be able to see first hand those heroes from this state that have served so valiantly and nobly.

The other good news from the week was the continued optimistic news about the revenue collections. March collections were 6.7 percent ahead of last year's collections and 10.4 percent ahead of estimates. This means that the state should certainly be able to make the maximum allowable rainy day fund deposit. This is capped at 10 percent of the previous years general revenue collections. I think that it would be prudent to increase that cap in the future.

However, there continues to be continued negotiations about the actual budget itself. Before the Senate voted in a new President Pro Tempore, the House had an agreement with the Senate to use a General Appropriation Bill as the vehicle for the foundation of the budget. However, the new Senate Appropriations chair was unable to come to an agreement with the House Appropriation chair on such a bill.

Now both chambers are running individual funding bills for each agency. This week the House will consider about 150 appropriation bills to be considered. Right now each of these bills will not carry actual numbers for those bills. Instead, these bills will go to conference to get agreement on the actual numbers. With six weeks left in the session, there is still plenty of time for all parties to come to an agreement on funding levels for each agency.

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