As we enter the final few weeks of the legislative session, it will soon be time to start reflecting on what this session has brought us. Before we do that, I would like to take a larger view to look at what term limits have brought us. With term limits now in full effect, the paradigm shift that has taken place at the Capitol is in full view. Where legislators used to be older men, now we see a mix of members who are 20- and 30-somethings. Where members used to stay and serve 20, 30 and even 50 years, we now see powerful members leaving after eight years of service.
This year the legislative body will turn over at least 31 new members. These are 31 new members who have never served before, and for the majority of them, it will be their first time elected to anything. My point is that with so many new members coming and going every few years, we have only a handful of members who have institutional knowledge.
Institutional knowledge is the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing. It is making sure the ideas and policies your party has fought so long for are not abandoned overnight because you didn’t know. Institutional knowledge is not taking road funds and diverting them to education when your party spent the last 10 years trying to get them back.
Institutional knowledge is making sure your political compass stays locked when you deal with educational issues and does not blow the way of the latest fad. Institutional knowledge is knowing there is a constitutional cap on property tax because there are a lot of good ideas every year that could use more tax money. It is knowing that you don’t raises taxes on oil and gas because the government has not taken in enough revenue. Most of these legislators ran and got elected on shrinking the size of government – not growing it – but from the bills we see, you could hardly tell.
As we are in the heart of campaign season and people are asking for your vote, I ask you this: please ask them why they want to be elected. Don’t just take the stock answer. This person is coming to Oklahoma City to represent you for the next few years. Make sure they have a reason to be in Oklahoma City for four straight months and to pass laws that affect you. Make sure you find out what kind of person they are and if they think like you do. Once they are elected, keep your eye on them. Follow them on social media. I promise you they want to tell you what they are doing.
You need to make sure the person you elect is the right person and will not forget what they ran on when they get to Lincoln Boulevard. I fear without institutional knowledge, we end up rewriting how the legislative process is done every few years. I am not advocating for removal of term limits; in some cases we are mighty thankful for them. It is up you to send legislators to the Capitol who reflect you and your ideas.