The Pawhuska Journal-Capital recently asked the Republican candidates in the runoff for District 10 House of Representatives to answer five questions. The newspaper sent a questionnaire to incumbent Travis Dunlap and challenger Judd Strom, and asked them to respond to each question in 75 words or less. The questions were specific and addressed issues Oklahoma’s legislators are likely to face in the next legislative session.
Republicans will go to the polls on Aug. 28 to determine if Dunlap or Strom will represent their party in the November election. District 10 includes portions of Osage County. The winner will face Democrat Kevin Stacy, retired Oklahoma Union school superintendent, in the November general election.
Here are the questions and their answers.
1 What gaps will the legislature need to fill in medical marijuana legislation?
TRAVIS DUNLAP: That question has many answers that space limitations prevent me from addressing here. One aspect, however, that many people may not have recognized is the impact the marijuana vote has on religious freedom. The state should ensure that those institutions with religious objections to the use of marijuana be allowed to follow their written moral or religious policies and procedures on their premises. As of now, no such state protection exists.
JUDD STROM: Presently, there is no way to know what gaps the Health Department will leave in the legislation. I know they are working diligently to ensure that the people that will benefit from the therapeutic value of medicinal cannabis are able to have access to it. I hope they craft the necessary restrictions to keep it out of the hands of people that do not; just as is done with every prescription drug.
2 Public school officials throughout the state say the teacher pay raises were the first step. Schools still don’t have the money to reduce class sizes or restore courses or programs cut in the past decade. What’s your response to this?
JUDD STROM: Oklahoma has recently experienced the largest growth our state has ever seen. Our public schools, rightfully, will be a major benefactor of this growth. While I do not like new taxes, I cannot argue the investment in our children. We were dead last on spending (per-child). We are now second only to Texas in our region. There is work to be done. I believe some of that work can be done with careful legislation that gives more control of school budgets and spending back to our schools’ local school boards and superintendents.
TRAVIS DUNLAP: It is time to support reforms to see a higher percentage of our education spending used for instructional costs. We can start by passing State Question 801. This is not a tax increase; it allows more local control. We also must continue efforts to reform the Commissioner of Land Office fund. Bureaucrats opposed past efforts. Finally, the whole state needs to follow the lead of Bartlesville Public Schools in reducing the number of non-teaching employees.
3 Oklahoma’s prison system is stretched beyond capacity, doesn’t have enough guards and state inmates are simply walking away from minimum security facilities. What steps can the legislature take to fix this problem?
TRAVIS DUNLAP: Criminal justice reform has seen modest improvements in recent years, and those adjustments will continue to happen. More impact can be made, however, if drug courts, mental health courts, and mental health treatments are more aggressively pursued. This is the conservative solution, because prevention is always more affordable than incarceration.
JUDD STROM: Prisons have become long term housing rather than short term punishment. I believe the answer to our swollen prison system is the fostering of a better rehabilitation system. That system would consider the mental health and criminal background of our prison population and decide who needs to be locked away and who needs to be shown the way to become a productive member of our society. We shouldn’t be paying to house people that have never hurt or endangered the persons or property of others.
4 If you’re elected, describe the bills you would introduce in the upcoming session.
JUDD STROM: I hate to see new legislators head to the Capitol with a laundry list of new laws they’re going to pass. Oklahoma already has thousands of laws. Rather than discuss new laws, I’ll discuss going to Oklahoma City with the purpose of protecting Oklahoma’s citizens from government over-reach and its small businesses from over-regulation. I want to promote the idea that Oklahoma is open for business, and I want business to be good.
TRAVIS DUNLAP: Legislators go through a process of taking in constituent requests and strategizing with colleagues to make the best use of time. I am excited to offer District 10 an expanded voice. As a senior member in an upcoming House membership that has more than 60 percent of membership having served two years or less, District 10 constituents will have my experience as a committee chairman and as one who has successfully navigated high-profile legislation into law.
5 The Department of Transportation has reduced the amount of money sent to counties for road and bridge improvements because of budget cuts in the past decade. What can the legislature do to improve funding for the Department of Transportation and make sure more of that funding reaches the county level?
TRAVIS DUNLAP: The question actually reveals one of the problems! Funding should be sent directly to the Circuit Engineering Districts without going through the Department of Transportation. Washington County commissioners can build bridges for less than half of the cost that the Department of Transportation spends to build the same bridge. This is what HB3438 attempted to do this past legislative session before status quo defenders once again shut down a conservative solution!
JUDD STROM: I hope to see the outcome of Oklahoma’s recent growth be more adequate funding of every department. If we can ensure this to be the case, then we can work to roll back some of the budget cuts that did more harm than good to our citizens, such as the cuts to county road and bridge work.