Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City, who represents Senate District 46 (in the middle of the capital city) was elected Democratic Caucus Chair this winter.
In a recent exchange with CapitolBeatOK, Sen. Floyd explained her duties and outlined challenges Democrats, who now hold six seats in the upper chamber, will face in this year’s policy and budget environment.
She reflected, “My role as Caucus Chair is to coordinate the overall message and legislative strategy of Senate Democrats. Our role as Democrats is to serve as a voice and a watchdog for working families across Oklahoma. Even as a minority party, we have had success in shaping the legislature’s policy agenda over the last few sessions.
“We were able to craft truly bipartisan legislation in recent years, such as suicide prevention training in public schools and improving safe sleep standards in childcare facilities. Just as importantly, we have been able to stop some truly divisive legislation from being enacted into law.
“This coming session, we will be working to shape budget negotiations. The majority party will need to build consensus in order to raise enough revenue to solve our budget shortfall and Senate Democrats will be working hard to call for balanced solutions that protect working families.”
Concerning her home district, Floyd outlined a couple of her legislative priorities for the session, which begins Tuesday, February 6:
“In 2015 I authored a bill directing the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth to propose recommendations for developing and improving services for homeless youth locally and throughout our state. The Commission gladly took on the task and recognized that the number of homeless children in Oklahoma is truly shocking. This year I am working on legislation to implement some of the Commission’s policy recommendations.
“I have also filed legislation to bring Oklahoma driver's licenses into compliance with the Real ID Act. It’s crucial that we solve this problem as soon as possible. If we fail to act during this legislative session, thousands of Oklahomans will find themselves unable to board commercial flights or enter federal institutions such as military bases and courthouses without a passport.”
Floyd is critical of budget priorities of the majority Republicans over recent years.
“Oklahoma faces serious budget challenges year in and year out. The recent oil bust, combined with irresponsible income tax cuts for the wealthy and tax breaks for corporations, caused a $1.3 billion budget shortfall last year,” she told CapitolBeatOK.
“Instead of finding a balanced solution, the legislative majority cut vital services and relied on one-time revenue sources to fill the gap, These cuts have led to a devastating teacher shortage and have gutted Oklahoma’s public health and public safety services,” Sen. Floyd continued.
“Not surprisingly, it looks like we will face another massive budget shortfall this year. It is critical that we work harder and find fair and consistent sources of revenue that will fill the gap for the long term.”
In public and private debate, Floyd has often critiqued Republican legislative priorities and measures as, she contends, unconstitutional.
“The legislative majority has passed a troubling number of divisive and unconstitutional laws. Many of these laws are challenged in the court system, and the taxpayers are forced to pay to defend them. Each time the Courts must step in to overturn unconstitutional laws it creates the perception that lawmakers do not know what they are doing. It erodes the public's trust in government.
“We have to do a better job of respecting our taxpayer dollars. Our state is facing yet another serious budget crisis. Can we really afford to keep spending our time and money defending legislation that’s likely to be overturned?
“Last year I proposed an interim study to assess the impact of filing unconstitutional legislation. Leadership denied my request, which is unfortunate because Oklahoma’s taxpayers deserve to know that their government works for them.”
An attorney who earned her law degree at the University of Oklahoma, before seeking legislative office Floyd was an administrative law judge, a special municipal court judge and an adjunct professor at Oklahoma State University.
She was elected to the Oklahoma House in 2012, and to the Senate in 2014. Sen. Floyd’s community activities include serving as vice president of the board of directors at Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy, a public charter alternative school.