After 11 years at the Capitol, property tax cap champion Jim Reynolds bids farewell to the Senate

State Sen. Jim Reynolds, an Oklahoma City Republican, delivered his farewell speech on the floor Friday, expressing appreciation for the opportunity to have served the Sooner State. In July, he is taking office as treasurer of Cleveland County, a position he won in the November 2010 election. 

In his valedictory, Reynolds remembered with fondness work on the Commission supporting completion of the U.S.S. Oklahoma Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The last survivor of the battleship that sunk in the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy is Ed Veazey, who also served on the commission and is now a constituent of Sen. Reynolds. 

Reynolds said the work on the memorial changed his life in politics. He was chairman of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs committee for the last half of his time in the Legislature. 

The south Oklahoma City Republican grew sentimental as he told colleagues the most meaningful thing that happened during his legislative service, on a personal level, came after he supported a bill sponsored by the late Sen. Keith Leftwich, a southside Democrat. 

That bill allowed high schools to give diplomas to members of the Greatest Generation, those who left high school in order to join the Armed Forces of the United States in the Second World War. 

In an interview today (Friday, May 20) with CapitolBeatOK, Sen. Reynolds said he did not realize the effect that Leftwich’s bill would have on his own family.

He told the story of his father, Jack Don Reynolds, who left Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City in 1942, enlisting in the Marine Corps and serving for three years. Jim’s mother, Earlene, called him after the she read about the bill to explain Jack Don was “one of those men.” 

Sen. Reynolds went to work. Soon, his 76-year-old father and a group of other veterans went to Capitol Hill for a special ceremony, where they receive their long-delayed degrees.

Jack Don Reynolds said, as reported in The Oklahoman (October 19, 2001), “There are thousands who deserve this more than me, so many I’ll never see again. We were so gung-ho. We just knew our country needed us.”

Jim was with his father that day, and says now, “It doesn’t get any better than that.” Not long after getting the diploma, Jack Don’s healh began to decline, and he passed away a few years ago. 

Today, Reynolds said, “Every one of my colleagues has been good to work with. I respect every one of them. I am blessed to have worked here for the last 11 years.” 

Reynolds’ formal resignation is effective July 1. He has represented parts of Cleveland and Oklahoma Counties since 2000. He describes himself as “thankful to God, my family and friends who believed in me when I chose to run for office, and to the people of Senate District 43 who gave me the opportunity to represent them.”

In a recent Senate staff press release, Reynolds recalled a time early in his career when “a family friend approached my father asking him to persuade me on a particular issue. After much prodding, my father simply said, ‘No I won’t tell Jim how he should vote. He will do the right thing.’ Those words were the basis and challenge for me during my Senate career. Simply do the right thing, let my word always be true.”

This session was perhaps the most successful of his career. He pushed through Senate Bill 130, a new law (already signed by Governor Fallin) that simplifies county financial reporting requirements. Most significantly, in alliance with state Rep. David Dank, another Oklahoma City Repubican, Reynolds pressed for a constitutional amendment, originally House Joint Resolution 1002, that could lower property tax burdens for Oklahomans. 

The state of Oklahoma presently has a 5% annual cap on property tax increases, but critics argue the practical effect of that “cap” has been to guarantee annual increases that match the maximum allowed. As Sen. Reynolds observed, “At the 5% cap, property taxes essentially double every 14 years. With this new 3% cap, it will take at least 24 years for taxes to double.”

The measure is headed to the November 2012 ballot

Earlier in his tenure, Reynolds pressed for crime victims’ rights, including “Taylor’s Law,” which requires courts to allow family members of a murder victim to wear photo buttons of their loved one in courts of law. He reflected, “Legislation like Taylor’s Law will never apply to most people, but for those seeking justice for a loved one, it means the world.”

In a Senate staff release, Reynolds said, “It isn’t an exaggeration to say that many of the causes I’ve taken on these past eleven years have been nothing short of life-changing. It is simply a privilege to be in a position to help people. I will always be thankful for these years.”