On Alert: Norman Arts Roundtable Legislative Forum
The Norman Arts & Humanities Roundtable hosted their Legislative Forum on January 11, 2017. The Norman legislators raised short term concerns for state support for the arts and longer term tips for advocacy.
The local arts sector has hosted this forum almost annually for 30 years according to chair Norman Hammond. The Roundtable brings together leaders from most of the area’s arts and culture organizations for regular strategizing, networking and advocacy. Norman Arts Council coordinates the group.
Most of Norman’s state legislative delegation attended, including Senator Rob Standridge (R-District 15), Rep. Scott Martin (R-District 46), Rep. Emily Virgin (D-District 44) and Rep. Claudia Griffith (D- District 45).
Each emphasized how clearly arts and culture improve Norman’s economy, education and community development. They cited public arts events like the First Friday Art Walk and school programs especially.
They also spoke about the challenges for the legislature to make decisions and serve the state with the huge projected budget reduction and shortfall. Sen. Standridge detailed that even with possible revenue additions, the gap is large and most agencies will face cuts.
Rep. Martin specifically encouraged arts advocates to be on alert about legislation that may be introduced to eliminate the Oklahoma Arts Council and several other agencies, which he argued would be devastating to our state.
He reminded attendees the importance of grassroots advocacy to educate legislators about the positive impact of public funding for the arts in their district.
Case for Support
Several arts leaders asked, “What’s the most persuasive case for funding the arts to your legislator colleagues?”
Rep. Martin encouraged us to look at local arts programs in schools and how they help students.
Sen. Standridge emphasized the positive economic impact of arts and culture, especially presenting local data for each legislator.
Rep. Virgin also pointed out the potential loss in Federal funds by reducing the Oklahoma Arts Council’s budget. The Oklahoma Arts Council was able to invest $733k of National Endowment for the Arts funding in communities across our state. Oklahoma has to invest state funds to get that Federal match.
Rep. Griffin urged us to learn about each State Senator or Representative to understand what’s important to them before addressing our agenda.
Legislators emphasized House and Senate leaders and the Governor when asked about other important people to target when advocating. This includes new President Pro Tempore Senator Mike Schultz (R-District 38, Altus), Majority Floor Leader Senator Greg Treat (R-District 47, Oklahoma City), Speaker of the House Rep. Charles McCall (R-District 22, Atoka) and Majority Floor Leader Rep. Jon Echols (R-District 90, Oklahoma City).
They also encouraged communication with Appropriations and Budget Chairs Senator Kim David (R-District 12, Porter) and Representative Leslie Osborn (R-District 47, Mustang). Follow Oklahomans for the Arts for specific talking points when appropriate.
Many thank to this very helpful delegation of legislators who support public funding for the arts!
We at Oklahomans for the Arts will be watching closely as the filing deadline for legislation falls on January 19 and the 56th Legislative Session starts February 6, 2017.