By Rep. Mike Sanders
House lawmakers completed another stage of the legislative process on Thursday, April 23. The bills that remain in the process have either passed both chambers and are headed to the governor or back to the chamber of origin with amendments.
Governor Mary Fallin signed two of my bills into law this week. House Bill 1318 will create a felony for an assault on an off-duty officer. House Bill 2005 will encourage additional volunteers to join rural fire departments. Currently, there is a maximum age limit of 45 for new volunteer firefighters. This age limit was put in place because of pension issues that happen when recruiting older firefighters. I had constituents tell me they would rather volunteer without a pension than simply be barred. This new law gives them the option to serve without a pension.
In other legislative news, the Oklahoma House of Representatives advanced legislation that would ban powdered alcohol in Oklahoma. Palcohol is a new product that received federal approval March 10. It has not yet appeared in Oklahoma liquor stores. Several states have already banned it and others are working to ban it or at least regulate it strictly. Senate Bill 720 will now proceed to the governor’s desk.
We also approved an important bill regarding third grade reading. Senate Bill 630 stipulates that a student identified at any point of the academic year as having a reading deficiency will be entitled to intensive remediation in reading until the student is able to demonstrate grade level proficiency. The measure calls for the development of an intensive remediation plan for a student enrolled in the first or second grade whose score below proficient on an approved screening instrument. The measure eliminates automatic promotion for students who score limited knowledge on the third grade reading test and receive intensive remediation.
The bill extends probationary promotion until the 2019-2020 school year, removes the principal from the student reading proficiency team and requires the principal, as well as the school district superintendent, to approve the recommendation for promotion. The measure modifies the proficiency level for retention in the third grade from a score of unsatisfactory to below the proficient level. Thus, a score of limited knowledge would result in a student being retained in the third grade, if the student does not qualify for a good cause exemption or probationary promotion. Accordingly, several parts of the measure are updated to reflect this change.
Lastly, we are still in budget negotiations. I continue to work on protecting road and bridge funding in our state. Economic development and public safety are two important issues that should not take a back seat. In the coming weeks, we will discuss the budget and what it means for our district.