The Duncan Banner
Having secured another term, Duncan’s Dennis Johnson, Oklahoma State Representative District 50, will be beginning his seventh year come January.
With the reelection of President Obama and with Oklahoma state representatives looking to the leadership of incoming Speaker of the House, T.W. Shannon, (District 62) R-Lawton, Johnson said there could be some changes both good and bad as Oklahomans approach a new year of legislature.
One of the first things the state’s House of Representatives will be looking at is what to do if federal funding to the state is cut off or decreased significantly. Johnson said an all-day meeting today would work on developing contingency plans with rumors of a national cuts in funding to the states.
“T.W. Shannon ... wants the agency to give an update on what we would do as a state if the money stops coming,” Johnson said. “If the ‘fiscal cliff’ indeed happens, we could see a lot of our funding that comes into our state reduced or stopped.”
Johnson said he believes Shannon’s plan to develop contingency scenarios is forward-thinking and an important thing for the state house of representatives to consider.
When it comes to the other goals he has for this term, Johnson said he is waiting to hear who will comprise Shannon’s leadership teams. Johnson and Shannon have had a close relationship for many years as Shannon is from Lawton, only 30 minutes west of Duncan. Johnson said there could be some great benefits to southwest Oklahoma in the upcoming term if Johnson and Shannon work together.
“He and I are on the same page on a lot of issues,” he said. “I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish with him being from southwest Oklahoma. I do anticipate having a good working relationship.”
Shannon will not finalize his leadership teams for another couple of weeks but Johnson does expect that his close relationship with Shannon could lead to some additional opportunities for him. However, he said that this will not change his attention to the issues — including the large number of rural issues that are important to the people of District 50.
“I am starting my seventh year in the house,” Johnson said. “There are more people behind me then there are in front of me. Having some superiority there and a good relationship with the Speaker of the House, I am hoping that translates into greater responsibility and influence.”
Regardless of his leadership positions, Johnson does have a few key issues he plans to address this term including his continued work on tax reform. He said he will continue to evaluate the bill that he passed last year that gave tax credits to businesses and other entities to make sure they are benefiting the taxpayer as a whole.
“I still want to take a good honest look at our tax credits,” Johnson said. “I think there is room for reform and adjustment there.”
Johnson will also be working to help initiate an education stabilization program, which could be a fund that schools either put money into or take money out of to help them get through well-funded years as well as the lesser funded years.
“A lot of times our school districts are unsure how much funding they are going to get from one day to the next,” he said. “When times are hard, money can come out of that fund and when times are good, funds can go into that fund.”
Johnson said this will be a great help when the amount of funding that each school is going to receive year-to-year is unknown.
“This would really help them with their efforts to make sure the students get taught or the teachers get paid,” he said.
Another issue that the house will be looking at this year is the implementation of Obama Care with the reelection of President Obama.
“Under full implementation of ObamaCare, the benefits will cost more,” Johnson said. “There will be winners and losers. Whenever you have a government driven plan like this, I do not see a long-term benefit. I see something that would not benefit the citizens of Duncan.”
Regardless, this plan seems inevitable for each state and appropriate measures will be taken by the state.
“We will be looking at the options we have,” Johnson said. “We will be looking at what we can do and the provisions that we may and may not make.”
Johnson said that the Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is still involved in a lawsuit challenging this program.
“We do not know how it will go one way or another,” Johnson said.
Johnson also plans on providing leadership this term to other representatives who do not have as much time in the house as he does as well as backing other’s good ideas.
“I will help the other legislators that have good ideas and the ones that are uncertain how to proceed,” he said. “Part of my role will be to help them navigate the legislative process.”
Johnson said no matter the issues that he supports or the leadership team he is assigned to, he will continue to be committed to the issues of District 50.