Pemberton won't seek reelection for third term

Feb. 2—State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, has announced he will not seek a third term in the Oklahoma Senate, and is planning on spending more time with his family.

Pemberton was elected in 2016 and this is his second term. Senate terms are four years with a term limit of 16 years. Pemberton's district covers Muskogee, Tahlequah and other parts of Cherokee County. The senator is a proponent of education and worked until his retirement in 2015 as a public school educator.

A resident of Muskogee since 1982, Pemberton was the first assistant and defensive coordinator for the Muskogee Rougher football team, when they were state champions in 1986. He also served as principal of the high school and middle school at Hilldale Public Schools for 18 years, and as principal of Muskogee High School until he retired.

Pemberton negotiated for, and was one of the sponsors of, a $750 million education package that passed the Senate in 2023. In the upcoming session, Pemberton is pushing two bills supporting education that clean up some of the language of that effort and for heightened security in schools.

Senate Bill 1520 incentivizes retired teachers to come back into the classrooms. The bill lifts the income cap from $15,000 to $30,000 for those who have retired under 62, and for those who retired after age 62 the cap would be lifted from $30,000 to $55,000.

"Education leaders say they do not have enough teachers. We are short almost 4,700 teachers at this time. We need to build our pipeline," Pemberton said during a press conference held by members of the Republican Education Committee on Jan. 31.

S.B. 1521 cleans up language to allow employment of retired law enforcement personnel as school resource officers, if there is no existing police department or sheriff's office in a community, or there are not enough officers available to fulfill those duties.

Pemberton put forward the original bill, S.B. 101, along with three other senators, in early March 2023 to help improve school safety and security.

"We have a lot of smaller school districts that don't have a police department, so you can't hire an officer from the police department if you don't have one," Pemberton said during the press conference.

The second measure, S.B. 1522, allows Redbud Grant funds designated for building maintenance and construction to be applied toward the cost of casualty and property insurance.

Pemberton also serves as assistant majority whip, is chairman of the Retirement and Insurance Committee, and holds seats on the Education Committee, Wildlife Committee, Health and Human Services Committee, Rules Committee, and OMES/ARPA Appropriations Subcommittee.

"It has been a distinct honor and pleasure to have served the citizens of District 9 for going on eight years, while being a constant voice of reason and common sense at the State Capitol. Retirement will allow me to better focus my energy on growing family obligations, while spending more time with my wife Claire, my sons and soon-to-be nine grandchildren," Pemberton said in his press release.