2016 Senate Summation – week 3
February 18, 2016
- The Senate Republican Caucus is ready to take leadership on the state budget. We will take this opportunity to set spending priorities so we can limit the impact on core government functions like education, public safety and transportation
- Oklahoma is facing a historic budget crisis. With a $1.3 billion budget hole to fill, it will take tough, sometimes, painful decisions to help our state weather the storm.
- The people elected the Senate Republican Caucus to deliver on the promise of lower taxes and a smaller, leaner and less intrusive government.
- We can deliver on that promise and help address the budget crisis by examining tax credits and eliminating those that aren’t delivering on their promise; further identifying and eliminating wasteful and duplicative spending; and pursuing further structural reforms to give the Legislature greater flexibility in the appropriations process.
- If individuals think they aren’t taxed enough or want to themselves help mitigate the budget crisis, Sen. Dahm has introduced SB 1085 which creates a tax form check-off to allow Oklahomans to donate all or a portion of their tax refund back to the state or to make other monetary contributions.
- “FOUND/LOST MONEY” for Education: The Oklahoma State Senate appropriates dollars to agencies, but doesn’t micromanage how they use the funds. OMES and SDE are responsible for reconciling these funds, and need to answer questions about the confusion of the cash balance of the “1017 Fund.”
- The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld as constitutional the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program. This ruling provides certainty and relief for the parents of students with disabilities who depend on the program. The LNH scholarship program empowers parents to select the educational options that best suits their children.
- CRIMINAL JUSTICE: SB 1214 by Sens. Sharp, Boggs and Holt modifies “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea to create “guilty with mental defect.” Convicts would begin sentence in a mental hospital, and, if ever deemed competent, would serve the rest of their time in prison. The rights of crime victims are often overshadowed in favor for a criminal’s rights. This change would ensure justice is served for the victims and bring certainty and closure to the crime victims’ families.
- VETERANS: The Senate Republican Caucus values and respects our veterans for the service and sacrifices they make to protect our freedom. SB 1134 by Sen. Simpson creates a tax check-off so Oklahomans can contribute to the Indigent Veteran Burial Program to ensure indigent veterans are laid to rest with the honor and respect due them for their service to our country. The bill also creates the Indigent Veteran Burial Revolving Fund and permits ODVA to provide reimbursements from the fund to a cemetery or funeral home for costs incurred burying an indigent veteran.
- SJR68: a measure by Sen. Jolley that would let the people vote to modernize state alcohol laws. The bill gives consumers the chance to decide whether to bring Oklahoma’s laws in line with most other states by allowing strong beer and wine sales at convenience stores and grocery stores.
- Blaine Amendment: SJR 72 by Sen. Standridge passed out of committee. The measure would let voters decide whether to repeal Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution (aka the Blaine Amendment). The Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong when it invoked the Blaine Amendment to order the removal of the Ten Commandments from Capitol grounds. That ruling threatens the continued use of state dollars at religiously affiliated hospitals. The people should have the chance to remove the Blaine Amendment to solve these problems.
- STATE AGENCY PAY RAISES: Recent media reports focused on a number of agencies handing out pay raises even as the state is facing a historic budget crisis. The state wants to attract and retain talented workers, but it’s inappropriate for agencies complaining at the Capitol about budget cuts to hand out raises right now. The Senate is considering measures that provide the Legislature – the elected representatives of the people – more oversight of the unelected bureaucrats who run state agencies.