The primary Monday in February marks the start of the Oklahoma legislative session. And Oklahoma lawmakers are gearing as much as think about greater than 3,000 payments.
Our reporters shall be there to cowl them. Right here’s what they’ll be awaiting main as much as the convening of the 2023 legislature.
Tax cuts and spending shall be large focus of Oklahoma GOP
Tax cuts are a major goal for Oklahoma Republicans. With a supermajority in each chambers of the legislature, they’re prone to catch the attention of lawmakers, too.
Proper now, the state has nearly $3 billion in savings. Which means Republicans are prone to discover many funds choices.
Final session, management within the Home, Senate and Governor’s Workplace had disagreements on what precisely ought to or shouldn’t be reduce. Gov. Kevin Stitt made calling for an finish to Oklahoma’s grocery tax a significant precedence.
A name to finish the grocery tax is nearly 40 years old however is mostly extra common in election years.
The nuts and bolts of tax cuts and common spending will largely play out throughout funds negotiations, a course of that’s largely secretive as leaders within the Home, Senate and Governor’s Workplace craft a funds behind closed doorways.
Payments together with large spending — like a suite of education measures proposed by Edmond Sen. Adam Pugh — provide a peek backstage on priorities. However maybe the most important early indicator will come on the primary day of session when Stitt unveils his priorities in the course of the annual State of the State address on Feb. 6.
Training legislative priorities look to draw lecturers, management classroom instruction
Oklahoma lawmakers have a number of instructional focuses this spring, however two areas are getting particularly heavy focus: making the state a extra enticing place for lecturers and managing what ought to be taught within the classroom.
Whereas Senate Training Chair Adam Pugh already unveiled his educational priorities earlier this month — which features a $3,000-$6,000 instructor increase — different lawmakers are additionally making strikes to draw and maintain lecturers.
Sen. Kristen Thompson’s Senate Bill 466 would give particular training lecturers a increase of at the very least 10% above the prevailing wage paid to different lecturers. Different payments look to protect teacher sick leave and health insurance coverage.
There’s additionally a give attention to making instructing in Oklahoma extra doable for lecturers with households: SB364 mandates 12 weeks of paid maternity go away, SB16 would create a pilot program for college worker childcare, and HB1343 would pay for 30% of well being and dental protection for lecturers’ dependents.
As with last year’s session, there’s additionally a renewed give attention to what’s being taught in school. Sen. David Bullard’s SB867 is one among a handful of payments on instructing America’s founding. That invoice would cost social research lecturers with extra instruction on America’s founding, particularly its “Christian heritage,” together with affect of the Ten Commandments and the Bible.
Outdoors of historical past class, lawmakers need dad and mom to opt-in for sex education and any education about gender or sexual orientation — although one bill would do away with sex education at any grade stage altogether. Equally, a number of payments handle which books can be allowed in libraries and outline a review and grievance process for fogeys who object to the fabric.
Abortion and new moms are a significant focus for well being coverage
Oklahoma banned just about all abortion final 12 months. Lawmakers filed a number of payments in its wake. Some proposals replace the abortion ban whereas others give attention to bettering social providers and well being protection for brand spanking new and low-income moms.
Home Majority Chief Jon Echols filed House Bill 2088, which amends the state’s abortion ban to make clear that it doesn’t apply to evacuating a terminal being pregnant.
Senate Bill 834, filed by Sen. Julie Daniels, makes a number of adjustments to the regulation that established the ban. It makes some clarifications about medical emergency exemptions, for instance stating that ectopic being pregnant evacuations are authorized. It additionally creates exceptions for sexual assault and incest, however it requires victims to file police experiences to get the exemption. Critics notice that some victims, akin to youngsters who’re assaulted by relations, may not have the ability to file a police report on their very own.
Senate President Professional Tempore Greg Deal with filed Senate Bill 694, which might enable pregnant folks to qualify for Non permanent Help for Needy Households. That’s a money help program that helps low-income households make ends meet. Beneath present regulation, pregnant folks solely qualify in the event that they have already got youngsters within the residence. Senate Invoice 694 would guarantee new moms have entry to this system, as effectively. Final 12 months, Gov. Stitt created a task force on insurance policies to assist moms with unplanned pregnancies, and this coverage was amongst its suggestions.
Senate Bill 182, filed by Democratic Sen. Carri Hicks, would require Medicaid to cowl breast pumps. These small machines enable moms who breastfeed to construct up a provide of milk the infant can eat when the 2 are separated. It may well additionally assist moms who need to breastfeed their infants however are having a tough time with it. One other invoice, Senate Bill 245 by Sen. Julie Daniels, would require Medicaid to cowl donor milk if a health care provider prescribes it.
Increasing web entry in rural Oklahoma
Oklahoma lawmakers need to get the ball rolling on broadband web growth plans.
Final 12 months, House Bill 3363 created the Oklahoma Broadband Office to supervise broadband spending and meet a purpose of bringing web connectivity to 95% of Oklahoma households by June 2028.
Nonetheless, the Broadband Governing Board has struggled to discover a director. The board beforehand anticipated to fill the position by early August, however appointed Kirk Martin as interim govt director in October 2022.
Throughout September’s particular legislative session, former Rep. Logan Phillips, earlier co-chair of the state’s broadband growth council, said the challenge behind discovering a director is that the job place is aggressive, as many states need to fill an analogous position and the $150,000-$170,000 salary range being offered.
Varied sources may fund Oklahoma’s efforts to enhance web entry, together with $382 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds and $167 million from the state’s ARPA Capital Project Funds.
The work on broadband tasks will proceed this session with laws like:
- Senate Bill 457, authored by Sen. Brent Howard, R-Altus, would ease laws to permit electrical corporations to extra simply present broadband providers to clients.
- Senate Bill 472, authored by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, would enable rural electrical cooperatives to make use of their present electrical energy utility easement to increase entry to broadband web providers.
- Senate Bill 499, additionally authored by Paxton, would encourage web service suppliers and public entities to share data with the Oklahoma Broadband Workplace.
Proposal would protect Southeast Oklahoma’s pristine rivers
Solely two rivers in Oklahoma have flowed free and undammed since statehood. Proposed laws goals to maintain them that method.
In 1968, the US Congress handed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to preserve rivers throughout the nation with distinctive magnificence, ecology or cultural significance. These waters obtain particular federal protections towards damming, air pollution and growth. Though over 78,000 miles of rivers flow through Oklahoma, none of them are federally acknowledged and guarded as Wild and Scenic.
Sen. Bullard filed Senate Bill 14, which might introduce the Charlotte Hearne Heritage River Act, an effort to guard Oklahoma’s distinctive and pristine rivers on the state stage. Named for a southeastern Oklahoma water advocate, the invoice would designate and defend the state’s Heritage Rivers, which it defines as any river that’s been flowing free and undammed since Oklahoma attained statehood in 1907. Solely two rivers within the state nonetheless meet this criterion: the Blue and the Glover, each in southeastern Oklahoma.
The invoice would prohibit anybody from damming a Heritage River or promoting its waters sooner or later, however it contains language to accommodate present water rights and land use. The Oklahoma Water Assets Board can be tasked with managing the river and defending it from “private and non-private nuisances.”
Oklahoma does have already got six state-designated scenic rivers underneath the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Act. However in 2016, the state legislature voted to dissolve the commission that oversaw these rivers’ safety and transferred oversight to the Grand River Dam Authority, which funds itself by promoting water and hydroelectric energy.
Different water-centric proposed laws features a invoice to prohibit public water supplies from adding fluoride and two payments to regulate cannabis growers’ water use.
Leisure hashish referendum looms over potential medical marijuana reforms
A particular election on March 7 will decide if leisure hashish could be bought by adults 21 and older in Oklahoma. State Question 820 would additionally enable some folks with drug convictions the chance to have their hashish convictions reversed and legal data expunged.
The passage of SQ820 will surely be a shock since a number of of the state’s high elected officers have already spoken out towards the poll initiative.
Final 12 months, the legislature took up many provisions to reign in Oklahoma’s marijuana enterprise licenses, in addition to push by way of payments that may bolster enforcement of legal guidelines. This 12 months a number of items of laws are taking purpose on the business once more – some with offering language to protect people who have medical marijuana licenses from discrimination.
Different laws seems to be to amend licensing necessities, and direct Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority workers to collect and submit samples for testing.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority was faraway from the Oklahoma Division of Well being’s jurisdiction in 2022, subsequently making the OMMA its personal entity.
How Oklahoma may decrease incarceration charges and assist with re-entry
Oklahoma has one of many highest incarceration rates in each the nation and on the planet.
Efforts to vary this statistic over the previous years have included reclassifying easy drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor in 2016 with the passage of State Question 780 and Gov. Stitt’s U.S. history-breaking mass commutation of over 400 inmates in 2019.
Addressing mass incarceration entails contemplating how one can lower the variety of folks despatched to jails and prisons, however it additionally entails specializing in legal rehabilitation and reentry.
Within the upcoming legislative session, that focus could be present in Senate Bill 11 filed by Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, which might amend the Oklahoma Increased Training Tuition Help Act to permit incarcerated folks to obtain state tuition assist and House Bill 2433 filed by Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma Metropolis, which might delete sure eligibility necessities from the Oklahoma Drug Courtroom Act.
Whereas Oklahoma’s price of juvenile incarceration has considerably decreased lately, consideration to juvenile justice can nonetheless be present in Senate Bill 153 filed by Sen. George Younger, D-Oklahoma Metropolis. The measure would stop minors from being sentenced to life with out chance of parole. Senate Bill 77, filed by Sen. Brent Howard, R-Altus, would amend the Youthful Offender Act to make necessary charges to be paid by the household of the offender to the Workplace of Juvenile Affairs elective.
How lawmakers may influence entry to the poll field
Election season by no means actually ends.
Lawmakers need to move extra voting-related payments forward of the subsequent large election, the 2024 Presidential run.
These measures may take many alternative types. However, one latest regulation has led to the implementation of post-election audits in Oklahoma. The primary post-election tabulation audit was performed in 2022.
This 12 months, lawmakers are contemplating tweaking state questions. State questions, by Oklahoma law, offers folks the facility to suggest legal guidelines and amendments to the state Structure and to enact or reject legal guidelines at polls unbiased of the Legislature.
A invoice by Senator Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, would enable state questions solely on odd-numbered years, which might stop questions from exhibiting up across the similar time as a gubernatorial or a presidential election, that are on even-numbered years.
Senate Joint Resolution 5 would additionally stop state questions or amendments that “eliminated a proper of residents of this state,” except a majority of electors statewide and if a majority of electors in two-thirds of all Oklahoma counties vote in favor of the poll measure.
It’s unclear what eradicating “a proper of residents” means, however the language of the regulation will surely make votes in rural counties with decrease populations extra significant.
Different voting measures being launched in 2023 associated to voting could be discovered here.