By Rep. Mike Sanders
State legislators are a step closer to final policy solutions as we enter into March. The Oklahoma House of Representatives have reduced our total legislation to 383 bills and joint resolutions after beginning with 983 bills filed this year. We are now spending all day on the House floor discussing and voting on those 383 proposals.
In the area of education, we moved bills forward that do not contain final language, but will serve as vehicles for three important policy discussions this year. First, strong support exists for the elimination of End of Instruction tests. Bills advanced in both the Senate and House to reduce or eliminate these tests. Second, there is support for reducing the planned teacher evaluation implementation. Third, with the hope that we will find funding, we advanced legislation that will contain a teacher pay raise. If not, we have several other bills such as House Bill 2247 to try to address the teacher shortage with more targeted incentives.
In the area of health policy, we approved legislation by a Grove emergency physician who strongly believes that Medicaid includes too many able-bodied adults. Even a liberal health economist like Jonathan Gruber has estimated that as many as six out of every 10 enrollees added to Medicaid would otherwise have private coverage. House Bill 2665 will further limit Medicaid, which would likely improve the service for the remaining Medicaid enrollees.
In the area of public safety, we approved a bill to shore up the state’s 9-1-1 system on the House floor. House Bill 3126 increases the transparency and accountability for 9-1-1 fees and provides state coordination for improved 9-1-1 service delivery. The measure also replaces the funding that has been lost due to the drop in the use of landline phones with an increase to the individual 9-1-1 fee on each cellular contract. Just like with transportation infrastructure, public safety infrastructure is critical to maintaining the safety of all Oklahomans.
We also advanced several child welfare proposals. One would require parents to show up for hearings if they want to have a say in custody and other child placement decisions. Another would allow the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to discontinue operations if a child has been shown to be appropriately placed with a safe family. Currently, by statute, if a judge does not close a case, the agency has to continue to provide evaluations and other services, even when they are no longer necessary.
Round 1 of Committee Work Ends
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