Week No. 7 of 56th Legislature
Total Senate Bills and SJRs introduced in 2017: 877
Total reported from committees: 412
Total reported out of the Senate: 347
Education is a key part of the Senate Republicans’ legislative agenda, and this week we passed several measures dealing with teacher pay, teacher recruitment, and reducing administrative costs, among other issues.
Investing in education now will pay dividends for Oklahoma for decades to come
It starts in the classroom where we want to make sure our students leave high school prepared for success in college and the workforce, and we reward and adequately compensate the talented, creative, and dedicated teachers who help our students succeed.
These investments we make in education will pay off by giving Oklahoma a more skilled and talented workforce, which is what we need to help make Oklahoma an even better place to invest and do business.
The Senate teacher pay plan passed this week (SB 618)
o modifies the minimum salary schedule and increases pay for classroom teachers.
o This plan is a work in progress, and we need to continue to move forward, work with the House and Governor’s Office, to find the best way to pay for a long-term, sustainable, and much-deserved teacher pay raise.
Other education measures:
o SB 514 (Stanislawski) requires OSDE to study shared administrative services of school districts in the state in the hopes of reducing administrative costs.
o SB 15 (Bice) directs the OSDE and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to implement a targeted recruiting program for teachers.
o SB 70 (Daniels) directs the State Auditor and Inspector to conduct a performance audit on the OSDE.
o SB 72 (Daniels) directs the State Auditor and Inspector to conduct a performance audit of the Department of Career and Technology.
o SB 243 (Stanislawski) requires a monthly financial report to be prepared by the local school’s treasurer and sent to the local school board.
o SB 515 (Stanislawski) modifies the point system in determining a school’s grade on the state A-F report card system.
o SB 261 (Fields) creates a task force to study and make recommendations on reforms to the State Aid formula, including but not be limited to the grade level weights, the student category weights and the transportation factor of the State Aid formula.
o SB 529 (Smalley) increases accountability to combat fraud in the Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) to ensure funds are available for students in the program.
o SB 445 (Newhouse) increases flexibility within existing tax credits related to the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act to better serve low-income and high-needs students.
o SB 301 (Griffin) exempts children in out-of-home placements with DHS from the requirement to attend a public school to participate in the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
The Senate this week passed several criminal justice reform bills, building upon the success of measures passed last year
The path Oklahoma is on now is unsustainable. We cannot continue to lock up those with mental health or substance abuse problems. We need to provide them the help they need to get back to being productive members of society.
These reforms offer a balanced approach to criminal justice. They make sure we keep the public safe, but these reforms also offer men and women with mental health or addiction problems a way to rehabilitate.
o Senate Bill 603 (Treat) requires the Department of Corrections to administer a risk and needs assessment for each prisoner.
o SB 649 (Treat) exempts elderly citizens from escalating punishment for committing a felony (with certain exceptions).
o SB 689 (Treat) allows a nonviolent offender sentenced to life in prison to have his or her sentence modified after 10 years of imprisonment. The measure allows the courts to waive fees for service.
o SB 793 (Treat) creates the Corrections and Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force to track implementation of criminal justice reform recommendations.
o SB 650 (Shaw) reduces the time by half in which a convicted offender can expunge their records provided no other crime is committed.
o SB 786 (Shaw) reduces charges associated with burglary if no person is present in the home
o SB 38 (Thompson) increases the Forensic Science Improvement Assessment fee from $5 to $10 to support the upkeep of state forensic lab equipment.
o SB 247 (Matthews and Thompson) requires the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate all law-enforcement related shootings in jurisdictions of 150,000 or less, and allows the OSBI to review law-enforcement related shootings in jurisdictions of 150,000 or more.
Oklahomans are continually reminded of the need for judicial reforms
o Anti-business rulings from the Oklahoma Supreme Court and its subjective use of “single-subject rule” to strike down bills they don’t politically agree with
These reforms are a measured approach to help restore the balance of power among the three, co-equal branches of government in Oklahoma.
Too many times, we’ve seen the judiciary extend beyond its constitutional role and instead take on the role of a super-legislator.
These changes also will roll back the outsized role the trial lawyers play in appointing judges to the bench.
o SB 708 (Sykes) requires a district judge to have served as lead counsel in at least three jury trials before being elected or appointed to serve on the bench.
o SB 779 (Sykes) changes the amount of judges each judicial district may nominate.
o SJR 43 (Sykes) would allow voters to decide whether to amend the judicial appointment process to model the federal system. Under this proposal, the governor would nominate candidates to fill judicial vacancies and the Oklahoma Senate would confirm or deny the governor’s appointment. The Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) would rate the governor’s judicial nominees as either “qualified” or “not qualified.”
o SJR 44 (Sykes) would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Constitution to modify the judicial nominating process. Under this proposal, the JNC would provide the governor with five qualified nominees to fill a judicial vacancy, instead of the current recommendation of three nominees. The governor would be allowed to reject those nominees and request five new nominees. The governor would then select one nominee, whose name would be forwarded to the Oklahoma Senate for confirmation.
o SB 213 (Dahm) would change the boundaries of Oklahoma Supreme Court judicial districts to correspond with the number of congressional districts in Oklahoma plus adding at-large positions.
The Senate suspended Shortey last week, and the Pro Tempore and other state leaders called for his resignation.
The Senate reserved the right to take further action, but fortunately, Shortey resigned.
The Senate will continue to cooperate with all authorities on this ongoing investigation.
Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with, all those involved in this tragic situation.
With this resignation, the Oklahoma Senate now moves forward with the important business of the people of this great state.