Certainty. U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says that’s what the American people need.
The American people are looking for certainty from Congress, even as they deal with election-year uncertainty. The 3rd Congressional District representative visited the Enid News & Eagle Thursday for an exclusive interview. The interview covered a wide range of topics.
The national electorate is skeptical because of excessive partisanship and gridlock, Lucas said. Voters need to know which way the wind blows, he said.
Currently, Lucas said the U.S. House is conservative, the president is liberal and there is no leadership in the U.S. Senate, so no one is in charge.
“Harry Reid is not Lyndon Johnson or Bob Dole,” he said. “Was I polite enough?”
President Barack Obama is campaigning in the Corn Belt, which includes several swing states crucial to this year’s election. How does Oklahoma’s congressman feel about Obama stumping in the drought-stricken fields?
“I’m proud he found them,” Lucas said.
Lucas said if GOP challenger Mitt Romney becomes president, Mitch McConnell becomes Senate majority leader with a Republican takeover of that chamber and John Boehner stays as speaker of the House, there will be a serious restriction of the amount of money coming from the federal government.
“If the rest of the economy is convinced the federal government will step back, I think there will be more money for investment and the economy will grow at a faster clip,” Lucas said.
“I believe we can turn it around, we just need help from the voters,” Lucas said. “It’s up to the voters to send a signal. Nobody is in charge of the process, and the voters need to pick a side.”
Other topics covered in Thursday’s interview included:
• The farm bill. America must have a farm bill, Lucas said, and he is waiting for Congress to come back into session.
Getting the bill done has been difficult this year because of the differing sentiments on the House Agriculture Committee, which he chairs. One group does not believe in spending any money on anything, he said, and another group wants to define what farming is and take control away from farmers.
Lucas said he must work with both of those groups, but has formed a consensus bill, while cutting back on the amount of money contained in each of the farm bill programs. Only about 20 percent of the bill actually funds commodities, the rest goes to food stamps, conservation programs and other areas that have little to do with production of food, he said.
The Senate already has passed its version of the farm bill, and Lucas said the House will file a conference committee report in September. However, the old farm bill expires Sept. 30, and that will affect crop insurance. Current insurance still will be good for crops that already are in the ground.
His constituents, though, are talking about the farm bill and about drought relief for livestock producers, which has not been funded.
The House Agriculture Committee is the least polarized of all House committees, despite the differences of some of the members, Lucas said. He was able to reach a consensus through open debate and the legislative process.
One of the problems Lucas has as chairman of the ag committee is members of his own party who do not want to spend money on agriculture programs. He called the farm bill an investment in the nation’s ability to produce food and fiber. Based on the farm bill of 1933, which established many of the current farm subsidies, the nation has the ability to produce crops, he said.
“We are the food backup, not only for our country, but for most of the rest of the planet,” Lucas said. “We make investments in the country and the farm bill is a good one. Farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalists.”
• Tax cuts. Lucas expects tax cuts approved under President George W. Bush will be continued in some form, although maybe not permanently. Currently, the debate is such high profile neither side will yield anything.
• Health care. Regarding federal health care reform, Lucas said a GOP-majority Congress can retroactively change it if Obama is defeated in November and the Republicans take control of the Senate. He said certain popular provisions, such as requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions and allowing people up to 25-years-old to continue on their parents’ insurance, may be retained.
• The election. Employment will play a large role in how the election goes, Lucas predicted. If national unemployment goes as high as 9 percent, he believes there will be a Republican sweep of the presidency, the House and the Senate. If unemployment stays around 8 percent, the election is a toss-up, he said, but if the unemployment rate drops below 8 percent it could help Obama.
“That’s my gut feel as a fella that has been up and down the road a little bit,” he said.
In states like Michigan, where the unemployment rate is 22 percent, Lucas said he expects voters to wonder when something will happen and they can get a job.
Lucas predicted no action on sequestration before the election. He said federal contract regulations require employers to send workers advance notice if they are planning layoffs. If those companies are going to lay off because their contracts are not honored, those notices will go out before the election.
On Thursday, Romney named Lucas to his “Farmers and Ranchers for Romney” team as supporters of his election.
Certainty. U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says that’s what the American people need.
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Candidates disagree with White House’s minimum wage
Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the state needs to have serious growth in high-paying living wage jobs that will provide for Oklahomans.
Dorman cautioned that while Oklahoma’s jobless rate improved in June, the state’s rankings for the well-being of children has dropped from 36th to 39th place, for one of the largest declines in the U.S., according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Project.
The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Gov. Mary Fallin said this week.
The state’s unemployment rate was more than 7 percent when Fallin was elected during the brink of the Great Depression. Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, pointed out that per capita income in Oklahoma was second in the nation from 2011 to 2013.
The non partisan Congressional Budget office reported in February that raising the minimum wage could kill a half-million jobs in the United States.
According to The Washington Times, CBO analysts reported, “Once the other changes in income were taken into account, families whose income would be below six times the poverty threshold under current law would see a small increase in income, on net, and families whose income would be higher under current law would see reductions in income, on net.”
President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
Weintz said the governor believes tax cuts have enabled families to keep more of their money.
No one is talking about the under-employment rate of families working minimum wage jobs, Dorman said.
“It’s all fine and good when you have fast-food jobs that don’t cover the bills and that counts toward your unemployment rate.”
Oklahoma’s minimum wage reflects the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, a standard set in 2009.
Fallin signed legislation this year to prohibit municipalities from raising their local minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
“If the minimum wage goes up to $15 in Oklahoma City, all of the sudden you would drive retail, business, service industry locations outside of the city limits and that would be detrimental to the economy, consumers and to businesses,” Weintz said.
Fallin has said that she opposes raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma because it would stifle job growth for small business and lay off workers. A lot of people earning the $7.25 minimum wage are part-time workers and many of them are students, Weintz said.
“We believe raising the minimum wage is not a good way to address poverty,” Weintz said. “A lot of people earning the minimum wage are actually people living with their parents or other people who are employed full time, and in many cases they are middle class families. So it’s not a good tool to reduce poverty.”
Dorman said he does not necessarily support the proposed $10.10 an hour minimum federal minimum wage that is being discussed by Congress.
“I think we need to have a living wage in Oklahoma that is reflective of our economy,” Dorman said.
About 102,300 jobs have been added in Oklahoma since Fallin took office in January 2011, according to her office.
The cost of living in the national economy tends to be higher in some other states, Dorman said.
So a minimum wage increase should be tied to economic gains so that families can pay their bills and afford to care for their children, Dorman said.
Independent candidates for governor include Richard Prawdzienski of Edmond, Joe Sills of Oklahoma City and Kimberly Willis of Oklahoma City.
Firefighters sharpen forced entry skills
Of all burglaries, 60.5 percent involved forcible entry, according to recent FBI statistics.
As a result, many home and businesses are installing a greater number of complex mechanisms on their doors and windows. Edmond Fire Maj. Joe Elam said 10 local firefighters recently sharpened their skills during a forcible entry class offered by IRONS and LADDERS, LLC., of Lawrence, Kan.
Preparing for a fall home garden
Gardening can be a year-around activity for those that have an appreciation for fresh and nutritious vegetables. Some of the best vegetables in Oklahoma are produced and harvested during the cooler weather of fall. Successful fall gardens, however, require some work in the summer growing season. Factors to be considered are location, soil preparation, crops to be grown and how/when to plant.
The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. “Full” sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure.
OBU dance team celebrates National Dance Day
In 2010, “So You Think You Can Dance” co-creator and Dizzy Feet Foundation co-president Nigel Lythgoe created National Dance Day in an effort to help people embrace dance and combat obesity on the last Saturday in July.
This year, on July 26, Oklahoma Baptist University’s dance team will host a fundraiser that allows participants to dance all day for $30. The fundraiser will be in the Noble Complex on OBU’s campus.
Cami Gower, an OBU junior and co-captain/co-founder of the dance team, said the team’s officers have been planning for their upcoming season since April. Gower is a graduate of Deer Creek High School.
“Since then we have been coming up with better ways to reach the community with dance,” she said. “This day of dance was a great way to do it and help the team raise funds.”
Local cops arrest NFL player on marijuana complaint
The Edmond Police Department has released the incident report related to the arrest of ex-Oklahoma State star and current NFL player Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon, 24, a product of Plainview High School in Ardmore, is a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Oklahoma State University, he was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best collegiate wide receiver.
Women aided in Afghanistan, Rwanda through AT&T
AT&T renewed its support for the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS program Wednesday by making a $125,000 contribution to the program at Lakeside Women’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.
AT&T has been a major supporter of Peace through Business since its inception in 2007, said Steve Hahn, the new president of AT&T Oklahoma.
Salvation Army pantry closes until September
Due to an increase of need, The Salvation Army in Oklahoma County has distributed all of its food supply. July 23 was the last day of the food pantry operations. In preparation for the move to the Center of Hope at 1001 N. Pennsylvania, The Salvation Army Client Choice Pantry will not resume operations until September.
Payne Co. crash sends Guthrie man to hospital
A two-vehicle crash in Payne County sent a Guthrie man to a local hospital, a trooper stated.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper James Ritze stated a 2005 Jeep SUV and a 2013 Ford pickup were about a mile east of Perkins headed west on State Highway 33. When the pickup slowed for a truck pulling out of a private drive, the SUV struck the rear of the pickup, Ritze stated.
Second Street to get new 7-Eleven
The amended site plan for a new 7-Eleven Convenience Store was approved by the Edmond Planning Commission this week by a vote of 4-0.
Guard adds jobs, revenue to Oklahoma
During a Wednesday morning press conference at Joint Force Headquarters, members of the Guard touted the findings of an in-depth study addressing impacts the organization has in areas including gross state product, employment and tax revenue.
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- Candidates disagree with White House’s minimum wage