2016 Senate Summation – week 7


March 16, 2016

 EDUCATION AND CORRECTIONS SUPPLEMENTAL

  • The Senate this week unanimously approved supplemental funding for common education and corrections
    • We are leading the way and were the first to act on these important issues
    • $51 million for EDU
    • $27.5 million for CORRECTIONS
  • This amount from the Rainy Day Funds helps the agencies weather the storm this year; but leaves resources for the next Legislature for what’s expected to be as bad (or worse) budget time next year
  • Automatic cuts were necessary in FY16 because of the two revenue failures
    • 7 percent across-the-board cuts to all agencies
      • OMES responsible for implementing the cuts
  • EDU funding
    • helps lessen the impact on students and teachers. It provides certainty for this budget year and lets schools make it without resorting to 4-day school weeks, laying-off teachers and staff, or other drastic measures
  • CORRECTIONS funding: supplemental ensures the DOC can make it through this year without furloughing prison guards or making other drastic cuts at state prisons
  • EDUCATION 
  •  The Senate values and respects Oklahoma teachers.
    • Teachers are everyday heroes. We appreciate the tough job you have in educating the next generation of Oklahoma leaders.
  • Budget picture has been bleak now for several years
    • Many agencies have seen budget cuts of up to 20-30 percent
  • The Senate has worked hard to keep education funding relatively flat during this time
    • Since FY09, education funding has been cut only 1.85 percent
    • We hope this reflects our belief that education is a top priority and core function of government
  • The Senate is pursuing reforms to free educators from government red-tape, and get more dollars into the classroom so that teachers can focus on the most important part of their job: our children.

SB 1187

    • Provides public schools, if they seek it, with the same flexibility to operate as is currently provided to charter schools. However, three things have to happen before schools can move forward:
      • Local district must develop and adopt a plan
      • Majority of the local teachers must approve of that plan
      • The plan must be approved by the state Board of Education
    • Empowered schools MUST STILL:
      • conduct criminal background checks on teachers;
      • provide health insurance to teachers;
      • Demonstrate 75 percent of students master subject matter standards.
    • This bill does not automatically apply to all Oklahoma schools.
    • This bill does not deregulate public schools.
    • This bill does not strip away teacher rights.
    • This bill does gives parents, teachers and local school officials the option to pursue innovative education models to help improve student learning and outcomes.
  • ENDING EOIs
    • The Senate has voted to eliminate the end of instruction exams HS students must pass to graduate.
    • Eliminating EOIs allows teachers and students to focus on classroom work and not end of year exams.
    • Ending EOIs could save millions of dollars.

 EDUCATION STANDARDS

  • The standards go into effect March 23 unless disapproved by the House and Senate
  • Resolutions have been filed in the Senate and House regarding the standards
  • For now, it’s an ongoing discussion in the Senate

BUDGET

  • The Senate continues to lead the way in discussing key reforms to help us solve the state’s budget crisis
  • We’re looking at real reforms like:
    • Consolidations and eliminating inefficient programs
    • tax credit reform and apportionment and “off-the-top” money reforms
  • We have to find more efficiencies, savings and reforms to squeeze every penny possible to help us craft a balanced budget that protects core services

 

LABOR COMMISSIONER MARK COSTELLO ACT

  • This week, the full Senate approved HB 1697, by Sen. Griffin and Rep. Lee Denney, to help families get assisted outpatient treatment for adult relatives with mental illness before a situation reaches a crisis has been approved by the full Senate.
  • The bill is called the “Labor Commissioner Mark Costello Act.” Costello’s adult son, Christian, struggled with mental illness for years and has been charged in his father’s 2015 death.
  • We’ve moved away from institutionalization and toward community based treatment. That’s meant laws were passed to ensure patients with mental illness could only be forced into treatment if they were an eminent threat to themselves or others
  • By that time, unfortunately, it may too late to avoid a crisis situation.
  • Families with children who have struggled with mental illness especially face a tough time when that child turns 18. Families face barriers and difficulties in seeking treatment for that child.
  • The Mark Costello Act would give families a path through the courts to get their loved one into assisted outpatient treatment before a tragedy occurs.

 

SENATE PAY RAISES

In case you are asked about this at meetings or social media this week; I wanted to let senators know there was a limited amount of social media traffic this week about “the Senate giving staff pay raises this year during a time of revenue failures.” These false reports relied on a story from Jan. 2015

    • Those raises were paid for by cost savings. The Senate saved money by leaving positions vacant.
  • You can’t believe everything you read on Facebook or Twitter; we should all remember President Reagan’s famous word: “Trust but verify.”
  • Under the leadership of Pro Tem Bingman, the Senate has responsibly managed its finances and saved millions of dollars.
    • A ban on out-of-state travel
    • 30 percent reduction in Senate service; 30 percent reduction in leadership staff
      • FYI – House hasn’t reduced staff and gave raises
  • The truth is the Senate, like every other state agency, is taking a 7 percent cut to its appropriations because of the revenue shortfalls.
    • Senate appropriation reduced more than $871,000
  • The Senate isn’t asking state agencies to do anything it isn’t willing to do   OKLAHOMA CITY — State finance officials delivered more bad news Tuesday about Oklahoma’s economy, reporting that collections to the state’s main operating fund missed the official estimate last month by 18 percent. Overall collections to the General Revenue Fund in February totaled $225.6 million, which is $49.4 million below the official estimate used to build the budget for the current fiscal year that ends June 30. Collections were more than 25 percent below those from February 2015. The Oklahoma Insurance Department, which in recent years has contributed more revenue to state operations than it has received in state funds, said Tuesday it is requesting no appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year. A rift over messaging strategy seems to have revealed a deeper disagreement at the top of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Chairman Mark Hammons thinks the party should focus its efforts on hammering the ruling Republican Party over the state’s rocky financial straits, and issued a memo to that effect at the start of the current legislative session. Vice Chairwoman Connie Johnson says she was not consulted on the matter and thinks the state party is betraying its base by not being more outspoken on such things as criminal justice reform, abortion rights, marijuana legalization and sexual orientation. Tuesday’s agreement between the city of Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma on a framework for completing the stalled American Indian Cultural Center and Museum sets the stage for making the Chickasaw Nation a partner in what’s expected to be an internationally renowned attraction. The Oklahoma City Council agreed to plans to complete construction, return surrounding land to the city, and have the city assume responsibility for managing and maintaining the museum once it opens. The vote was unanimous after a nearly 40-minute presentation by Finance Director Craig Freeman and a handful of questions by council members. Should it fail to enter into a partnership with the Chickasaw Nation, the city could terminate its agreement with the state, Freeman said.
  • http://www.oklahoman.com/article/5485251?embargo_redirect=yes
  • Oklahoma City Council advances plan to finish Indian cultural center
  • http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/capitol_report/oklahoma-democratic-party-chair-vice-chair-at-odds-over-message/article_42e93c17-1767-5de9-b115-237347453cc1.html
  • Oklahoma Democratic Party chair, vice chair at odds over message strategy
  • http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/capitol_report/insurance-department-says-it-can-get-by-without-state-appropriation/article_f811f718-b41e-5a1e-a40f-80453a2b8165.html
  • Insurance Department says it can get by without state appropriation
  • http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/state/oklahoma-revenue-collections-fall-percent-below-estimate/article_144ddeb9-a48b-545e-b952-51c33335e3d4.html
  • Oklahoma revenue collections fall 18 percent below estimate
  • NEWS OF INTEREST:
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