McEntire begins final session

by Todd Brooks

(Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part interview with outgoing State Rep. Marcus McEntire.)

OKLAHOMA CITY - Marcus McEntire is more relaxed, but still just as busy as ever as he visits with Comanche Times staff in his office at the State Capitol last Thursday.

McEntire has represented District 50, which includes Comanche, for the past eight years. Earlier this year he announced he will not be running for re-election when his term is up even though he is eligible to serve four more years if he wanted.

“It’s definitely different this year,” McEntire said. “I feel a lot lighter. I mean, there’s no lame duck for me. I’ve got policies I’ve got to get done. I’m just as busy as I am in any other year. This is the first time this week that I’ve had a chance to actually talk to people that aren’t policy-related conversations. They can’t shut me down because they need me to do this because I know more about it than anybody around here.”

McEntire’s focus has been healthcare as he chairs the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee and it is healthcare which is keeping him busy as his time at the State Capitol winds down.

“It’s going good,” McEntire said. “We’ve got workplace shortages and health care is always a problem when it comes to worker shortages. We’re working on a few ideas on how to get more psychiatrists and psychologists to just get us to the national average. If we don’t have any residency programs, they don’t stay here. They come here and learn and then go somewhere else for their residency and stay.”

State leaders are working with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to establish residency slots.

“We have been doing a terrible job (of retention),” McEntire said. “We have like five or six psychiatrists in the whole state, so that’s a real problem. What if the psychiatrist in someone’s region is not a good fit? What if they don’t like each other? It happens a lot and we just don’t have any psychiatrists or psychologists in the well, so we’re trying to attract more.”

Another area he is trying to attract in healthcare is nurse practitioners.

“I’ll be running the nurse practitioners’ bill, which we’re simply going to take them and liberalize their practices and let them have independent practice after a certain amount of supervisory time,” McEntire said. “It’s gotten to the point in healthcare where we have to utilize every chess piece that we have on the board.”

He said the Republican caucus will be fighting hard to get it done.

“The Republican caucus of the House has decided we’re going to go ahead and move forward with a battle that’s been raging for 20 years out here,” McEntire said. “Every state around us other than Texas has liberalized nurse practitioners, so we need to do it. And we’ll do that (on Feb. 13) and it’ll just go right on over to the Senate and they’ll pass it and then the governor will sign it. It’s time for all hands on deck, we don’t have time to get bogged down in arguments. We need healthcare in rural Oklahoma and nurse practitioners can help fill that void and they need to be able to practice independently.”

Another area in healthcare focus is on the 340b program. It is a program that is a federal drug program created 30 years ago that requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care organizations at significantly reduced prices.

“It’s imperative that we have a 340b program,” McEntire said. “If we don’t have a 340b program, we don’t have a cancer center in Duncan. Everybody would have to drive to Dallas or Oklahoma City for treatment. It’s super important for our district, so I still have a lot of policy to do. I’ve accomplished things since I’ve been here but there is still a lot more to do. I could stay in this job 30 years and keep myself busy doing this type of stuff.”

It’s a job he has taken seriously.

“I’ve worked my fingers to the bone at this job and many time, I’m the first one here and the last one to leave, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” McEntire said. “It’s been one of the highlights of my life to do this job. It’s been rewarding, but in the same breath, it’s been the most disappointing job I’ve ever had in my life. Some days you feel like the yin might outweigh the yang and then eight years down the road, you’re like, ‘I’m exhausted.’ You lose the tolerance for the gains that you lose and you lose the tolerance for a lot of the silly stuff that goes on in politics.”

Which is why he wants to hang up his hat now.

“That’s kind of where I am,” McEntire said. “I’m at a time where I don’t want to leave here cynical and because I am kind of an optimist. And, I think if I stay here any longer, I might start getting cynical. So, it’s time for someone with some fresh energy do it. People often talk about term limits making a huge difference, but most members don’t do more than eight years. I think its just kind of the natural progression. After eight years, you’re just exhausted.”

While his time at the Capitol has been consuming, he has had a full life outside of it, which he thinks will be more than enough to keep him busy.

“I have a relevant life at home,” McEntire said. “People keep asking me ‘What are you going to do after this?’ Well, probably live a lot simpler life. Just running the insurance agency and Distinctive Decor kept me busy, so I was busy before. It’s really hard to keep two businesses open, much less super profitable. Four months out the year I’m here and it’s hard enough to do it when I’m there.

“My wife has said to me more than once, ‘You are so good at fixing other people’s problems. Why don’t you come and fix some of ours?’ That’s where I’m at, but you’ll never see me burn this place down. I am an institutionalist at heart. And, I know it doesn’t work nearly as efficiently as it could, but it was designed this way. And it was designed that people elect people they like in their districts and they are very different people.”