By Rep. Mike Sanders
In my last column, I discussed some of the major pieces of legislation passed this year. This week, I’m writing about a few additional measures that are now law.
Senate Bill 801 changes the relationship of physicians to Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) from supervisory to collaborative. This issue is particularly important to rural Oklahoma as it increases our access to quality health care in areas where physicians are not always in ready supply. CRNAs point to their years of schooling and licensing requirements as proof they can take care of all but the most severe medical cases. This opens the way for faster and more affordable care for rural residents, while still ensuring patient safety. This is supported by the Oklahoma Association of Nurse Anesthetists (OANA), the Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists (OSA), the Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA), and the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association (OOA).
Another measure, House Bill 3400, requires all Oklahoma public high schools to offer at least four Advanced Placement (AP) courses beginning in the 2024-25 school year. AP courses are proven to better prepare students for college, and even helps them earn college credit, saving them time and money on tuition. This law allows schools to offer the coursework through traditional teaching, through online instruction or by cooperative agreement with other schools. This is one more step in having a more skilled and trained workforce to add jobs to Oklahoma’s economy.
Two bills the Legislature had to enact by overriding the governor’s veto – House Bill 4018 and Senate Bill 1002 – allow us to establish a rural broadband expansion plan and add two members to the Rural Broadband Expansion Council, one appointed by the speaker of the House and one by the president pro tem of the Senate. This will ensure the people directly elected to represent Oklahomans have a voice in the process of broadband expansion. It was discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic that about 1/3 of public school students have no access to Internet. This posed a problem when schools were shut down and students were asked to do their work at home. This also affected adults who were asked to work from home, and it hampered business owners trying to deliver products and services. Building a reliable broadband network that reaches all parts of our states will help ensure everyone who wants access to the Internet can have it. This also will help us attract job creators and is another thing that will help build our state’s economy.
We also increased the penalty for porch pirates – those who steal packages or mail from homes, businesses or delivery vehicles. This has become more of a problem as people have moved to having many products delivered to their homes or businesses, especially during times such as the recent pandemic. House Bill 2777 ensures those who commit theft of these packages would face a misdemeanor for first and second offenses and a felony for three or more offenses. The goal is to thwart such theft.
Senate Bill 1125 directs the State Board of Education to issue Oklahoma teaching certificates to people who hold valid out-of-state teaching certificates, with no other requirements except a criminal history record check. This removes a barrier of having to get relicensed or recertified for these qualified teaching professionals who choose to relocate to Oklahoma to take the jobs that are open in many of our rural school districts. This is a win-win for our schools and our state. Our schools get more certified teachers, and the state builds its ranks of workers who contribute back to our economy.
Oklahoma has had a law on the books for years that required anyone submitting an absentee ballot in an election to have it notarized. The Oklahoma Supreme Court earlier this year struck that requirement down, not because the notarization process itself was deemed illegal, just that the requirement relied on the wrong section of law. We came back in and fixed that with the caveat that for the June 30 statewide election voters could submit a photocopy of their ID instead of having to have their absentee ballot notarized. After the June 30 election, the law will again require notarization. This helps keep our elections free of fraud, and protects this important right.
Just a reminder that I am still in office until mid-November, so if there is anything I can help you with, please reach out to me. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.