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Week 4: Getting Back to Work

Last week, we got two “Snow Days” and just like the kids at school, I was thrilled with the time off; but I did recognize that the time wasn’t really “off”, it was just delayed until this week - we spent more time in committee meetings and on the House floor. I’ve already posted about the frustrations of committee hearings (Republican bills fly through, Democratic bills struggle (if heard at all), so I’ll primarily discuss some of the bills that were heard and voted-on on the floor:

SB1582 – This is an appropriations bill from the Senate that sounds like a Ponzi scheme to me. The Oklahoma Indian gaming system pays the lottery money into The Education Lottery Fund. The Oklahoma Legislature has cut education funding more than the amount paid into the Education Lottery Fund and has used this cut money to cover other expenses. The State Board of Equalization became involved and determined that the Legislature had illegally supplanted $20M from the Lottery Fund and needed to pay it back to education. What this bill does is it allows us to take this $20M from the Unclaimed Property Fund (Oklahoma citizens’ money); in other words, we’re “borrowing” from Peter to pay Paul. The bill passed (along party lines - Republicans for, Democrats against) and was sent to the Governor for her signature.

HB2522 & HB2523 both passed unanimously; these dealt with the Employment Security Administration and how it administers unemployment funds.

HB 2643 also passed unanimously; it dealt with driving under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance, and appropriate punishment.

HB3124 by Rep. Meloyde Blancett(D) and Carol Bush(R) is the best piece of legislation I’ve seen at the Legislature; it creates a Commission on Aging with Serious Mental Illness to study best practice methods of helping aging citizens who suffer from serious mental health issues (dementia to schizophrenia) and at the same time are dealing with serious health issues (diabetes to heart disease). There are assisted-living centers and nursing homes that will accept one or the other, but not both. This is an area of concern that deserves much-needed attention. This bill will better prepare our state to meet the needs of this growing vulnerable population.
But the bill I had the most fun with was HB2888 which dealt with teacher certification (establishing initial, career, mentor, and lead-teaching categories) which I was intimately associated with after my 40-year education career. This bill provides proof to the old adage “You reap what you sow.” in that it points out to the Legislature that you can’t cut funding as deep as they have the past ten years forcing veteran teachers to leave the state in order to support their own families only to be replaced by emergency certified teachers year after year and then try to place mandates on staffing or pay that can’t be met with the resources that are left. The intent of the bill was admirable, but the execution was highly irregular. After a withering questioning period, the author decided to “lay over” the bill, meaning it can be brought up again at some later date after its many discrepancies can be taken care of.

I had the honor this week to introduce a special group of young women to the Oklahoma House of Representatives: the Union Public Schools 7th Grade “Go Girl!” Engineering Club was visiting the Capitol for STEM Day with their teacher. What an exciting group of inquisitive, creative, intelligent young women!

Paid for by Karen Gaddis for HD75 2018
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