As Oklahoma lawmakers prepare for the start of the 2018 legislative session on Feb. 5, they’ll be met with the familiar issues of filling an estimated $425-million budget hole, giving teachers a pay raise, reducing prison overcrowding and maintaining the state’s infrastructure.
Former Republican Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Kris Steele says it’s time for lawmakers to put statesmanship over partisanship.
Steele is the executive director of the Education and Employment Ministry, or TEEM. The group advocates for lower incarceration and poverty rates and provides assistance to people reentering society after being incarcerated. He was also appointed to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board by Gov. Mary Fallin in August 2017.
Steele says he hopes lawmakers will advance criminal justice reforms that previously stalled in the legislature.
“I remain optimistic, simply because the state of Oklahoma cannot continue on its current trajectory as it relates to criminal justice policies, as it relates to criminal justice spending and as it relates to the populations within our prisons.” Steele said.