|Oklahoma House of Representatives First Session, 57th Legislature|
|Representative Kevin Wallace District 32|
This newsletter includes a weekly wrap up of the third week of session.
Please check back each week for updates about legislative breakfasts in the district and legislative news that’s happening at the Capitol.
You’ll find my email address and contact information below so feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch and let me know how I can be of service to you.
News from around the Capitol Weekly Wrap – February 21, 2019 House Passes $1,200 Teacher Pay Raise Measure OKLAHOMA CITY – The full House of Representatives passed a measure Thursday that would increase Oklahoma teachers’ pay, as legislative leaders continue to focus on efforts to address the statewide teacher shortage. House Bill 1780, by House Speaker Charles McCall, would provide a $1,200 across-the-board pay raise for public school teachers. The pay raise would be in addition to the historic pay raise given to Oklahoma teachers during the 2018 legislative session. McCall said the goal is to get Oklahoma teachers to the highest pay in the region, and this raise moves us closer to that goal. The measure is a move to address a state teacher shortage, which is going to take a multifaceted approach. Better pay is one way to show current state teachers their service is valued, and a way to encourage new teachers to enter the profession. It will also help schools retain those experienced, veteran teachers already in the classroom. McCall noted that several more measures to address the teacher shortage are currently in the pipeline. Those bills include a measure to provide a $1,000 tax credit for teachers that purchase supplies for their classrooms, a bill that would allow retired teachers to return to the classroom at a much higher salary than currently allowed, a bill that would substantially increase the “in lieu of” amount for teachers that opt out of receiving the flex benefit allowance and a bill that would allow school districts to pay student teachers. During his State-of-the-State Address, Gov. Kevin Stitt called on the Legislature to increase teacher pay by $1,200 this year, and House Republicans made it a priority to accomplish early in the session. Last year, the Legislature approve House Bill 1010XX, which provided an increase to the K-12 budget of nearly $500 million and funded pay raises ranging from a $5,000 pay raise for a first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree to an $8,400 pay raise for a teacher with 25 years of experience and a doctorate degree. The average pay raise last session was $6,100. House Common Education Committee Chairwoman Rhonda Baker said the House will now focus on getting more money into the classroom and enacting reforms that improve student outcomes.
House Bill 1780 passed out of the House by a vote of 94-0 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
STATEMENT: Speaker McCall, Budget Chair Wallace Address Board of Equalization Revenue Certification
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall and House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Wallace issued the following statement regarding the available revenue estimate certified today by the Oklahoma Board of Equalization: “It is encouraging to have surplus revenue available to help meet the needs of our core state agencies, especially after many years of budget deficits,” said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. “Our state’s economy has been trending up over the last year. We have enough growth revenue to deposit $360 million in the Rainy Day Fund, which will give us a total of just over $800 million in our state savings account.” “We are in a much better position than we have been in recently, but we have to be realistic about how far this surplus can go,” said Chairman Wallace, R-Wellston. “The reality is that approximately $200 million of that surplus has already been spent in teacher flex benefit increases, ad valorem reimbursements, bond payments and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. If the Legislature passes the $1,200 teacher pay raise, which would cost $70 million, and the $30 million appropriation to the County Roads and Bridges Fund, that will be another $100 million. Frankly, given our recent history, I think it would be prudent to set aside at least 10 percent of that surplus to begin building a state savings account. The rest will be available to help invest in our state agencies, which have already sent us budget increase requests topping $1.2 billion over last year and more than $33 million in supplemental funding requests.” House Committee Passes Bill Creating Legislative Budget OfficeO KLAHOMA CITY – A bill creating a legislative office to evaluate agency budgets and programs for lawmakers was passed today out of the House Government Efficiency Committee. House Bill 2484, by House Speaker Charles McCall, would create the Office of Government Accountability (OGA) within the existing Legislative Service Bureau (LSB). The LSB is a shared office between the House of Representatives and the Senate that currently has limited functions. The OGA would be similar to the federal Government Accountability Office within Congress.
McCall said Oklahomans understandably want more accountability in government, and they expect the Legislature to ensure that taxpayer dollars we appropriate to the agencies are being used as they were intended and not being wasted. He said the Legislature doesn’t currently have the resources to do that. The Legislature is not another state agency, but a separate branch of government and it must have the resources to provide oversight and accountability over the agencies that are spending taxpayer money.
The OGA would have approximately 15 financial examiners who would routinely audit agency budgets and spending and evaluate the effectiveness of agency programs and services. The Office would provide reports to the House and Senate. The OGA would have an oversight committee made up of an equal number of House and Senate members, appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
The bill also requires agencies, boards and commissions to turn over to the Office upon request all records, documents and budgets and make personnel available. The Office will also have subpoena and investigation authority.
The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration by the full body. House Passes Measure to Fine Railroads for Blocking Intersections with Trains
OKLAHOMA CITY – The full House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill today that would fine rail companies for blocking railroad intersections with stopped trains.
House Bill 2472 would authorize municipalities, county sheriffs and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to issue a citation to any person or corporation that blocks a railroad intersection for longer than ten minutes. The bill allows authorities to issue a citation up to $10,000 per incident.
McCall said lawmakers have heard from emergency medical personnel and from citizens all across this state who have had difficulty providing or receiving care during an emergency by these stopped trains. He said this is clearly a public safety issue.
The fines would not apply when the train is stopped for one of several current exemptions that permit a train to stop for longer than 10 minutes, including mechanical failure, an obstruction on the track, weather and waiting for another train to pass in the opposite direction.
House Bill 2472 passed by a vote of 92-5 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Sanders Bill Would Increase Teacher Training on Dyslexia
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill authored by House Leader Mike Sanders (R-Kingfisher)that will add professional development training for teachers to help them better recognize students with dyslexia passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on Thursday. House Bill 1228 requires school districts to offer teachers a professional development program about dyslexia once per year, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The measure lists minimum requirements for the program and requires the program to include training in identifying dyslexia, training in meeting the needs of students with dyslexia, and training on resources about dyslexia for teachers, students and parents. The bill passed with a vote of 96-0; it now moves to the state Senate. Sanders said r esearch clearly shows that identifying students with dyslexia early and getting them the proper classroom supports will help them learn to read and do math and other subjects on grade level at a quicker pace. Students with dyslexia often present as those with a learning disability, but they actually just learn in a different way than other students. If teachers are trained to recognize dyslexia characteristics, they can get these students the help they need in a timelier manner. This will be a great benefit to these students and their parents, and will allow the teachers to play a greater role in their students’ success. Thursday was also Dyslexia Awareness Day at the state Capitol, and Sanders welcomed to the House gallery many young people, their parents and others who have worked to bring recognition to dyslexia to lawmakers and educators. The bill was a request from the Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma Task Force. Sanders said the training would be at no cost to the local school district. The task force is working on training materials and a handbook with the State Department of Education that can be shared with districts, teachers, parents and students. The task force will make additional recommendations in July. Members of the group also will be going out to districts to help train the teachers. The training could also be accessed online. It will be up to the local districts to decide the best timing on providing the training. Sanders said he worked with fellow Reps. Tammy Townley (R-Ardmore) and Kelly Albright (D-Midwest City) on the language of the bill and thanked them both for their leadership on this bipartisan issue. Albright, a classroom teacher, said students who would have fallen behind in reading, writing, comprehension and listening skills no longer have to fall between the cracks academically because help was not available.
Senate’s Purple Heart State Bill to be Considered in House
OKLAHOMA CITY – It is estimated that around two million Purple Hearts have been awarded by the U.S. Military since World War I. Sen. Frank Simpson authored Senate Bill 232 to recognize Oklahoma’s 1,340 recipients by designating Oklahoma a Purple Heart State.
Simpson said that so many Oklahomans have sacrificed life and limb for our country; this bill is a way to honor their service and sacrifice and ensure it’s never forgotten by designating Oklahoma a Purple Heart State. The Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving since April 5, 1917. The Purple Heart is different from most military awards and decorations as individuals are not “recommended” for the decoration but rather are entitled to it. SB 232 received unanimous approval by the full Senate Monday afternoon and is awaiting further consideration in the House.
Senate committee OKs Senator Kim David’s constitutional carry bill
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill by Majority Floor Leader Kim David that would permit Oklahomans to carry firearms without a permit.The committee voted 18-4 for the so-called “constitutional carry” bill and sent the measure on to be considered by the entire Senate.House Bill 2597 by David and Representative Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, would permit Oklahomans age 21 and older to carry a firearm without a permit. Veterans, active duty, and reserve military age 18 and over would be allowed to carry without a permit under the bill. The bill also prohibits felons and those with domestic violence convictions or who have been adjudicated as having a mental illness from carrying a firearm.Current protections that allow private property owners to prohibit firearms from being carried are maintained under the bill. The measure also maintains the ability of higher education institutions to set their own policies regarding the carrying of firearms on campuses. Fifteen other states allow constitutional carry, and the citizens of those states have enjoyed the ability to carry without a permit in Oklahoma for years. Bordering states include Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri.
Senate Approves Bill Allowing Schools to Administer Opioid Overdose Med
The full Senate has given approval to a measure aimed at helping save lives if students overdose on opioids while at school. State Sen. Greg McCortney is the author of Senate Bill 85, which adds school nurses or other designated employees to those who can administer life-saving opiate antagonists. The bill was approved Tuesday unanimously. Currently, state law includes first-responders, including emergency medical technicians, law enforcement and firefighters. McCortney’s bill would amend that law to include school medical personnel or an employee designated by the school’s administration to be able to administer opiate antagonists, a treatment that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, allowing time to seek emergency medical care. McCortney said the bill was a request from the State Department of Education. Not all schools have a nurse on staff full-time so the bill allows administrators to designate other staffers to administer the medication to a student showing signs of an overdose. Under SB 85, those designated would undergo training by the Department of Health, law enforcement or another appropriate entity to learn how to recognize overdose symptoms, how to perform basic resuscitation techniques and how to properly administer an opiate antagonist. According to the State Department of Health, opioids are the most common class of drugs involved in overdose deaths in Oklahoma, with prescription drug overdoses killing more Oklahomans than car accidents. The Centers for Disease Control reports that nationally, opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017. The National Association of School Nurses endorses making opiate antagonists available for use in schools and the U.S. Surgeon General has encouraged the use of antagonists to prevent overdose deaths. SB 85 now moves to the House for further consideration. For more information, contact Sen. Greg McCortney at 405-521-5541, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Restoring 5-Day School Week Clears Senate Education CommitteeOKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Education Committee approved a bill to restore five-day school weeks in Oklahoma schools, advancing one of the four agenda items of Senate Republicans. Senate Bill 441 by Senator Mary Quinn, R-Claremore, says all public schools shall be in session for no less than 180 days. Currently, schools are to be in session for 1,080 hours. The bill provides exemptions to the five-day school week if local schools can demonstrate four-day weeks aren’t adversely impacting student achievement and four-day weeks actually save the local district money. Treat said five-day school weeks are best for students and families. Four-day weeks have hurt Oklahoma’s reputation nationally and impaired the state’s ability to recruit new employers and jobs. Restoring five-day school weeks puts the focus on the student, where it belongs, and will go a long way in repairing our reputation nationally as we work to recruit new jobs and grow Oklahoma’s economy. Quinn said Senate Republicans are committed to keeping our word on the historic teacher pay raises and doing what’s best for students and that means restoring five-day school weeks. We also believe in the importance of local control, which is why we’ve included reasonable exemptions to the five-day week. Bill Increasing Small Business Owners’ Access to Health Insurance Sails Out Of Senate Committee
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee unanimously approved a bill by President Pro Tempore Greg Treat that would help more small business owners gain access to quality, affordable health plans.
Senate Bill 943 increases access to association health plans (AHP) by making state law more closely reflect federal rule changes that allow more employer groups and associations to form AHPs based on common geography or industry. An AHP allows small business owners to group together as if a much larger, single employer to obtain health insurance oftentimes at lower rates.
Treat said association health plans could have a huge impact for small business owners and sole proprietors across Oklahoma – who drive much of the job creation that keeps our economy growing. SB 943 lets small employers and sole proprietors in Oklahoma take advantage of AHPs to gain access to quality, affordable health care plans. This could save small businesses hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year, resources that can be reinvested back into their companies and employees.
Senate Bill 943 now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
Senate Approves Pre-Registration for Young OK Voters
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to ensure young Oklahomans do not miss their first elections. Sen. Jason Smalley is the author of Senate Bill 496 to allow those who are at least 17.5 to 18 years old to pre-register to vote. Smalley said currently, Oklahomans can’t register to vote until they’re 18 years old. This can cause them to miss voting if their birthdays fall after the registration deadline for an upcoming election. By allowing them to pre-register, they can actually vote on their 18thbirthday rather than waiting for their registration to be processed. The measure now moves to the House for further consideration.
Senate Bill to Allow Employees Flexibility in Voting Moves to House
OKLAHOMA CITY – Efforts have been made in the Legislature in recent years to improve access and make voting easier for Oklahomans. The Senate passed another bill this week that will allow employees more flexibility in voting. Senate Bill 58, by Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, will allow employees who live two or more hours from their polling place to take leave to vote on the Thursday or Friday before an election when in-person absentee voting is allowed by law. The measure also prohibits employers from penalizing their employees for taking time off to vote provided the individual provides proof of their vote. Employees will need to notify their employers of their intent to vote at least one day in advance. The employer will determine the day and time the individual is released to vote. SB 58 will next be considered in the House.
Thompson, Shaw Permitting Pay-for-Success Contracts Passes Senate CommitteeOKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a bill by Senators Roger Thompson and Wayne Shaw that would permit state agencies to enter into pay-for-success contracts with private entities if there is a public benefit to the state.Senate Bill 210 sets out the conditions for pay-for-success funding models made between state agencies and private entities. Under the measure, pay-for-success contracts must identify performance targets and outcomes against which the program can be measured to determine quantifiable public benefits or monetary savings.Thompson said pay-for-success contracts offer an innovative way for state services to be delivered in a more efficient and effective manner while saving the state money. The programs have been particularly successful in the criminal justice reform arena, and there are many other areas of state government that could benefit from this innovative approach.Senate Votes to Make Ribeye the Official State Steak
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma has an official state flower, a waltz, a state instrument-and on Wednesday, the Senate voted for a bill designating the ribeye as Oklahoma’s official state steak. State Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, is the author of Senate Bill 21. Murdock said the bill is all about promoting a vital part of Oklahoma’s economy and heritage. Murdock said the cattle industry is a huge part of Oklahoma’s identity, with 5.1 million head of beef cows in Oklahoma, making the state the third in the nation in the number of beef cows. That’s not small potatoes. According to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, the most recent figures show more than 51,000 beef producers in Oklahoma and they’re in all 77 counties. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, annual cash receipts for cattle sales in Oklahoma total $3.3 billion. But why the ribeye instead of a T-bone or some other cut of steak? Murdock said hands down, the ribeye is the most flavorful steak there is, adding his own research verified polls he’d seen attesting to the quality and taste of the ribeye. SB 21 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Governor Stitt Announces Secretary of Public Safety, Secretary of Veteran Affairs And MilitaryOKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Kevin Stitt announced on Thursday the appointment of two new cabinet members, Chip Keating as the Secretary of Public Safety and Brian Brurud as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Military. Both cabinet members will serve in an unpaid capacity and both positions require Senate confirmation. Anthony Francis “Chip” Keating III, 39, has been a principal with Keating Investments, a real estate and oil and gas investment company, since March 2010. Keating served as an Oklahoma State Trooper from May 2001 to August 2004 and is a Director and Gubernatorial appointee of the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System. He currently serves as a board member and immediate past president of The Children’s Hospital Foundation, Secretary of University Hospitals Authority Trust appointed by the Pro Temp of the Oklahoma State Senate and a director of OU Medicine, Inc. Mr. Keating holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Southern Methodist University. Brian Brurud is a former commercial airline pilot who currently serves as the CEO of Check-6 Inc, a global performance leadership consultancy comprised exclusively of carrier fighter pilots, Special-Operations operatives, and Astronauts. Prior to this, Brurud served 21 years as a fighter pilot for the Navy and Air National Guard, flying F-14, F/A-18, and F-16 aircraft. As one of the most decorated US Naval Fighter Pilots since the Vietnam War, Brurud has extensive experience in the US Military and the private business sectors. He was instrumental in bringing US Naval Carrier Aviation into the 21st Century; authoring numerous classified tactical publications and developing culture changing training systems, and tactics. For his combat actions, he was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and numerous Air Medals. Brurud holds a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Oklahoma State University. Governor Kevin Stitt Appoints Steve Buck as Secretary Of Human Services & Early Childhood Initiatives OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Steve Buck as the Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives, a cabinet position that requires Senate confirmation. As secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives, Buck is responsible for 34 agencies, boards and commissions, including the Department of Human Services and Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs (OJA). He previously served the state as secretary of health and human services under the Fallin administration. As OJA’s executive director, Buck is responsible for the overall management of the agency’s operated and contracted programs and services. He works directly with the agency’s governing board to facilitate agency priorities, planning and operational performance. Before joining OJA, Buck served nine years as deputy commissioner for communications and prevention at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Prior to that, he worked 10 years for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in multiple roles, including national director of state policy and executive director of NAMI Oklahoma. Buck and his wife, Lisa, have four daughters and two sons. A native Oklahoman, he is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a masters in administration leadership from the University of Oklahoma.Governor Kevin Stitt Announces New Commissioner to The Oklahoma Tax Commission
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Charles Prater as the next commissioner to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Charles Prater currently serves as the President and CEO at Assurance Resource Company (ARC). A Certified Public Accountant, Prater has over 35 years of private sector experience in public accounting and as an executive officer and board member in a publicly-held regulated financial services company, receiverships, insurance arbitration, tax and strategic planning and audits. In addition to working at ARC, Prater has served as the Chief Financial Officer for Neuroscience Specialists and Compone Services, LTD, and the Vice President of UICI and CEO of their Insurance Subsidiaries.