By Rep. Mike Sanders
Bills are now in the late stage of the legislative process. If there is disagreement or final details to be worked out, there is a chance bills will end up in a conference committee near the end of session. But otherwise, they are nearing their final leg of the process.
This week marked the deadline by which legislation must be heard in the committee of the opposition chamber. That means House committees completed their work on Senate bills. Now, we will pass bills on the floor. Once passed on the floor, those bills will either go to joint House and Senate conference committees to work out disagreements or straight to the governor.
On the Senate side, we are finally getting to see some movement on the bills we approved and sent over to them. My legislation to improve the prosecution of repeat drunk drivers in Oklahoma has passed through the Senate committee process and now awaits a vote by the full Senate. House Bill 3146, the Impaired Driving Elimination Act, will require all driving under the influence offenses to be tried in district court. This addresses the problem in which many drunk drivers are prosecuted in municipal courts that are not statutorily required to be courts of record. That means that when these drunk drivers are arrested, the record of that offense is frequently not pushed to the district attorneys. Without a record of previous convictions, these district attorneys cannot prosecute repeat offenders.
The Senate also approved two important education bills in committee. House Bill 2957 would return flexibility to local school districts in the area of teacher and leader evaluations. This bill restores local control in the evaluation of their teachers and administrators. The goal in these evaluations is higher student achievement and teacher and leader excellence. I believe this bill achieves that while removing some of the burden under the existing state model. The bill received a do pass recommendation by the Senate Education Committee and is eligible to be heard on the Senate floor.
House Bill 1622 would eliminate education tests not required by the federal government. In Oklahoma, this would eliminate three end-of-instruction tests, five middle school tests and a state art test. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade currently are required to take 26 tests throughout the course of their schooling. This bill has been scheduled for a conference committee this week in the House. By eliminating some of these tests, we can free up millions of dollars that could potentially go back into the classroom for our teachers and our kids, where it belongs.
Meanwhile, we have approved several Senate bills in committee. For example, the House Appropriation and Budget Committee approved an important measure to catch uninsured motorists. Senate Bill 359 allows law enforcement to use automated license plate readers to run those plates by the Oklahoma Insurance Department to determine if the owner is insured. If the owner does not have insurance, they will be sent a letter directing them to contact the District Attorney’s Office.
We also approved a Senate bill that will make it easier to hunt and kill feral swine. It adds feral swine to the list of animals that can be hunted with a variety of hunting licenses currently available to Oklahomans. It also allows the use of vehicles and night-vision equipment to hunt feral swine.
A bill that has moved through the entire process and now heads to the governor’s desk will extend the termination date for local firefighter pension and retirement boards. Senate Bill 1021 changes the termination date for local firefighter pension and retirements boards from 2000 to 2016.
It is fitting to end this column with a bill that affects firefighters as I also wanted to take this time to thanks all of the firefighters who have gone out in recent weeks to put out fires in Northern Oklahoma and specifically Blaine County. Thank you so much for all that you do to protect lives and property.