Committees Approve Education, Public Safety Bills

By Rep. Mike Sanders

House lawmakers continued their committee work this week. Education and public safety bills are getting attention right off the bat, with the committee passage of several bills to support these core services of state government.

On Monday, an education funding bill was approved in a House committee. House Bill 2642 would earmark nearly $3.2 billion for common education over the next decade.

Another measure, a constitutional amendment, was approved that will ask voters whether or not to allow individual districts to raise property taxes in order to pay teachers more.

A third education bill, which has not yet moved forward in the legislative process, would raise the minimum salary schedule for teachers to give them a $2,000 raise to their annual salary. Although most state lawmakers support teacher raises, the biggest obstacle for this bill will be the budget negotiation process between the governor and lawmakers, which will determine where money is ultimately appropriated.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave unanimous support to legislation barring registered sex offenders from changing their name.

The legislation would make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to hide their criminal record by simply walking into court and changing their name. It now moves to the full Senate for approval.

Nearly 4,000 low-income Oklahomans who use propane as their primary or only source of heat have received financial assistance since Governor Mary Fallin ordered the Department of Human Services to give them priority status.

Records show 3,753 low-income Oklahomans who use propane for heating fuel received $1,033,453 in financial assistance since the governor issued her assistance order.

Fallin issued an executive order Jan. 31 instructing DHS to expedite applications for both the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Energy Crisis Assistance Program. The federal assistance programs help low-income families with heating costs in the winter, cooling costs in the summer and home insulation.

In order to qualify for the programs, persons must be Oklahoma residents and must need financial assistance for home energy costs.

Propane is commonly used for heating homes in rural areas not served by natural gas. There are approximately 400,000 propane consumers in Oklahoma.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407.

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