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Norman representatives preview 2023 legislative session goals

Norman representatives

Oklahoma Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman), Rep. Annie Menz (D-Norman), Norman City Council Ward 4 Councilmember Helen Grant, Rep. Jared Deck (D-Norman) and Norman Mayor Larry Heikkila during the Undergraduate Student Congress 2022 post election forum on Dec. 5.

On Nov. 8, Norman voters cemented three Democratic candidates as their next representatives, making them a fraction of the Democratic minority heading into the 2023 legislative session. 

That night saw the reelection of incumbent Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman), and the success of newcomers Rep. Annie Menz (D-Norman) and Rep. Jared Deck (D-Norman). Now, they are among 17 other Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, where they will sit opposite 81 Republicans this session.

Democrats lost every major race in Oklahoma in the 2022 midterm elections, including both U.S. Senate seats, state superintendent and governor. Democrats won two Senate elections and ten state representative elections.

There were 781,091 registered Democrats in 2018, and 687,545 registered Democrats in 2022, according to Oklahoma voter registration statistics. Inversely, there were 1,003,182 Republicans in 2018, and 1,175,253 registered Republicans in 2022. 

Finding themselves in the minority of a Republican-dominated state House and government, Norman's three representatives said making headway through bills and reform policies is daunting. However, they hope through communication and perseverance they will be able to make progress for the state.


Deck’s political aspirations originated over a decade before his election in November. 

Jared Deck

Oklahoma Rep. Jared Deck (D-Norman) during the Undergraduate Student Congress 2022 post-election forum on Dec. 5.

Fifteen years ago, after working a 12-hour shift in a factory outside of Weatherford, Oklahoma, Deck received a paper saying to return for a plant-wide meeting. There, his job and many others’ were outsourced to overseas facilities.

In a nontraditional move, Deck went from plant work to politics by running for House District 57. Although he lost in 2008, he said the COVID-19 pandemic became a second call to action when he ran for District 44.

“I watched my state government sit on its hands while thousands and thousands of people perished,” Deck said. “To me, that (was) unacceptable” 

Deck said health care is his main priority, as noted by his former involvement in “Yes on 802,” a campaign promoting State Question 802, which expanded Medicaid access to people with incomes below 135 percent of the federal poverty line.

Deck recently filed the Access to Health Care Equalization Revolving Fund, aimed at expanding health care access in rural areas, specifically through increased sexually transmitted disease testing. 

From 2016-20, Oklahoma’s primary and secondary syphilis rates rose 255 percent, and the national rate rose 50 percent, according to the CDC. During the same time period, congenital syphilis rates rose 1,791 percent in Oklahoma and 235 percent nationally. 

In October, Terrainia Harris, director of the Oklahoma State Department of Health Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service, encouraged increased STD testing after the increase in syphilis cases. 

“We have an STI epidemic that's really happening in rural Oklahoma, and there's a massive inequity in access to testing,” Deck said. “We need access.”

Deck said his proposed medical care  expansion extends to mental health, referencing Oklahoma’s Comprehensive Crisis Response as a part of his proposition. 

Oklahoma’s 988 Comprehensive Crisis Response was established in July 2022 and provides 24-hour service from licensed health care professionals for people suffering mental health crises. 

Deck said he intends to ensure the program is allocating and receiving funds properly so it fulfills its intended purpose, he said he is concerned the crisis response is not operating to its full capacity.

Deck filed the Mental Health Reform Act of 2023 as a result of his concern surrounding 988 and mental health in Oklahoma. 

Deck said he is concerned by Oklahoma’s unemployment rate, which he believes stems from inadequate salaries. 

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate rose from 2.7 to 3.4 percent in 2022. The number of unemployed people rose from 49,607 to 63,636. 

“It's not the job of (the) government to subsidize businesses who don't pay their employees enough, but we have a lot of that,” Deck said. “We have devalued labor in our state. We have devalued the education process. … Whenever you’re doing that, you're disincentivizing people coming here (and) living here.”

Deck said Oklahoma should be committed to growing the economy over individual businesses. He also said he doesn’t think the government should support jobs and businesses that don’t pay a living wage. 

Oklahoma’s living wage is about $15.75 an hour for an adult with no children, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator. Oklahoma’s minimum wage matches the U.S. federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Deck filed House Bill 2835, which would repeal a section of the Oklahoma Legislature that preempts the state government from adjusting a business’ minimum wage. 

Deck said a decreased unemployment rate also relies on advancements in criminal justice reform, an issue he’s been involved in through the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma Board of Directors

Deck proposed implementing a career training program for former convicts upon release to prepare them to enter the workforce.

“I see that as a vision for the future that cuts across party lines,” Deck said.


Menz is the first Latinx house representative elected in Oklahoma. Raised by an immigrant mother and veteran father in a low-income household, Menz said she was unfamiliar with comfort. 

“I grew up poor,” Menz said. “I have five siblings. I'm queer (and) Latina. I don’t know what comfort is.”

Menz enlisted in the Navy when she was 17 and is a member of the Oklahoma Women Veterans Organization. After serving, she became involved in politics, eventually becoming a nonpartisan executive assistant in the Oklahoma Senate. 

Annie Menz

Oklahoma Rep. Annie Menz (D-Norman) during the Undergraduate Student Congress 2022 post-election forum on Dec. 5.

After working in the Oklahoma state Capitol for six years, she noticed what she considered to be a disparity in the number of average citizens and people of color in the Capitol and decided to run for office. 

Menz said she still carries the importance of being the first Latina elected to the state House. 

“To be able to bring along my ancestors in my heart with everything I do is really important to me,” Menz said.

Menz listed housing, raising the minimum wage and public education as pertinent issues. She said she found the struggles of working people to be universal, citing recent inflation as raising cost of living throughout the state and country..

“It’s not really a partisan issue,” Menz said. “We’ve all felt the effects of inflation. I have always wanted to fight for working people.”

Menz filed House Bill 2724, which would give a $200 stipend for landlords providing sanitary housing for low-income tenants. 

Menz listed corruption as another prominent issue and filed House Bill 2728, which aims to transfer bonds issued by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and require the court’s approval for each. Additionally, the bill would notify property owners within one mile of the OTA’s construction via circulating newspaperss and allow protests.

“It's hard to talk about what's wrong with the OTA without talking about corruption … and some of the special treatment that they get that other boards, commissions, agencies don’t necessarily get,” Menz said.

Menz said she is hopeful Republican constituents will work with her in combating corruption.

“Whenever it comes to corruption, there are some people that are rightfully upset on both sides of the aisle,” Menz said. “Whenever it comes to fighting to do the right thing for Oklahomans, you're gonna see Democrats and Republicans team up.”

Menz believes going into the state House of Representatives as a Democrat was reflective of her childhood and the constant discomfort she felt throughout her life. Yet, the Oklahoma state Capitol is not unfamiliar territory for Menz. She said knowing the intricacies of the Capitol is helpful, and she has already established friendships across the aisle.

Menz said she intends to further relationships through respect and understanding.

“We want to make the lives of Oklahomans better,” Menz said. “We just have different ideas on how to get there.”


Rosecrants began teaching sixth grade social studies in Oklahoma City Public Schools in 2012 and continued until becoming a representative in 2017. Since then, he has been reelected as a representative twice.

Rosecrants said his time as a teacher motivated him to run for office again.

"I'm a hardcore Democrat, but that wasn't what got me involved in politics,” Rosecrants said. “It was the fact that teachers were ignored.”

Rosecrants said he became frustrated with mandated tests in Oklahoma public schools. To him, these tests don’t reflect the time when he grew up, when teachers controlled which tests were given. 

Jacob Rosecrants

Oklahoma Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman) after the Undergraduate Student Congress 2022 post-election forum on Dec. 5.

Rosecrants began protesting and attending teacher rallies in 2015. During this time, he gained political knowledge that encouraged him to advocate on behalf of his children's futures and their education system — the same one he had taught in for years prior. 

“What kind of future do we want to leave for our kids?” Rosecrants said. “That's the way I look at it.”

Rosecrants’ goals for the current legislative session range from public education to mental health care funding.

One of his priorities comes from a bipartisan interim study he ran on school security. Rosecrants said the study revealed a lack of mental health support for public school students.

To address the issue, he authored House Bill 1340 with sponsor Rep. Daniel Pae (R-Lawton), which would reduce the number of qualifications required to become a school counselor.

“Right now, if you're a licensed professional counselor, (and) if you pass the National Counselor’s Exam, you still have to take two separate tests to even become a counselor in a school,” Rosecrants said. “It’s an emergency.”

Rosecrants’ emphasis on mental health funding included increasing school psychologist stipends — an issue that’s been on his mind since his initial election — and he said he hopes to provide a $5,000 stipend for school psychologists with House Bill 1037, which is also sponsored by Pae. 

“You can make so much more money outside of the school as a psychologist, and so we need to incentivize these people," Rosecrants said. 

Rosecrants also hopes to pass House Bill 1081, known as the Right to Recess Act, which would ensure 40 minutes of daily recess for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students. He said he previously received pushback after attempting to pass House Bill 3047, which would have required a minimum recess amount similar to HB 1081.

He cited the possibility of increased classroom time — which he believes presumably stemmed from fears of learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic — as his reason for concern, believing it would instead burn students out.

Rosecrants said he hopes to repeal or amend House Bill 1775, which bans schools from knowingly or unknowingly teaching that a person, because of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, starting with the filing of House Bill 1339.

He said HB 1339 would provide due process for teachers considered to be violating HB 1775, instituting an investigation before a decision is made at the board level. 

In August, HB 1775 resulted in the resignation of Norman High School teacher Summer Boismier after she posted a QR code for Brooklyn Library Books Unbanned, a collection of e-books banned across the country, in her classroom. Boismier was later placed under investigation and resigned. Ryan Walters, Oklahoma superintendent of public instruction, later called for her teaching license to be revoked.

“(HB 1775) is doing what it was meant to do,” Rosecrants said. “It is driving teachers away from the profession.” 

Oklahoma schools reported 1,019 vacancies in teaching jobs during the 2022-23 school year, according to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. During the 2021-22 school year, 3,914 emergency teaching certifications were issued. 

Rosecrants emphasized that cooperation with members across the aisle is necessary in achieving anything. 

“If you don't work with (Republicans), you're not going to get things done,” Rosecrants said. 

Moving forward

Deck said small wins make big differences in Oklahoma. 

“We can make a difference,” Deck said. “It may not look like what we originally thought it would look like, but we can get there if we just keep fighting day-in, day-out, one step at a time.”

Deck said several issues in the state intersect across communities, so there will be inevitable change in the state as Democrats and Republicans reach common ground. 

Menz also said with a higher youth voter turnout, Oklahoma would not be as Republican.

“Oklahoma is not monolithic. We are a low turnout state. … ,” Menz said. “The landscape of politics, especially in Oklahoma, is going to change. It's not going to happen overnight. It's going to happen gradually.” 

This story was edited by Alexia Aston, Karoline Leonard and Jazz Wolfe. Francisco Gutierrez and Grace Rhodes copy edited this story.

news reporter

Thomas Pablo is a journalism freshman and a news reporter at the Daily. He started at the Daily in the fall of 2022. He is originally from Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  

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