Despite having only a three-day work week, both chambers of the Legislature managed to pass some pretty significant bills. At the same time, more lurid affairs have overshadowed much of the Capitol’s usual business.
As such, NonDoc presents its weekly roundup of ongoing House and Senate bills you may have missed.
Passed the House on Tuesday
Nothing says “patriotism” quite like government-mandated compliance.
In addition to requiring a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, the bill’s text also mandates that every school own a flag and display it either inside or outside classroom buildings. In accordance with federal law, the bill allows students to refrain from reciting the Pledge and requires a sign explaining that right be posted “in a conspicuous place.”
HB 2277 currently lacks language outlining punishments for failure to comply with the increased frequency.
Authored by House Majority Whip Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa), the measure received unanimous approval from the House Common Education Committee before passing the House 93-1. Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) cast the lone dissenting vote.
Current law requires public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance once per week.
This bill by Rep. Greg Babinec (R-Cushing) would ostensibly do two much-needed things for Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections: 1) reduce the already overcrowded prison population, and 2) reduce the financial cost of housing nonviolent elderly inmates.
“Inmates 55 and older represent the largest growing population in our system,” DoC director Joe Allbaugh stated in a related press release. “It is inevitable that, as these inmates age, their housing and medical costs increase significantly.”
HB 1578 would create a commission to review all things finance-related in the world of #oklaed, from teacher pay to the funding formula. The commission would be comprised of of mostly lay people appointed by leaders at the highest levels of state government, including the governor and lieutenant governor.
The bill passed 64-26, with a mix of Democratic and GOP opposition. Potential costs of such a commission featured prominently during floor debate, although a related fiscal analysis cites only “incidental” costs.
Passed the Senate on Monday
A bill authored by a former U.S. Navy jet pilot and veteran of the Iraq War seeks to reduce the amount of fraudulent disability filings made among people who falsely claim to be 100-percent disabled veterans.
“It’s shameful that people who never made such sacrifices will falsely represent themselves as a veteran to get benefits they are not entitled to,” Sen. Joe Newhouse (R-Broken Arrow) stated in a press release.
In Oklahoma, veterans who qualify as 100-percent disabled receive a sales tax exemption for themselves, their spouses and, in some cases, widows.
According to Newhouse in the release, Oklahoma has issued 31,000 such exemptions, but he says only about 13,500 veterans (43.5 percent) actually exist in the state.
“We believe this registry can help stop that kind of fraud,” Newhouse stated.
NonDoc covered this story earlier in the week.
Passed the House on Monday
HB 1104: Would allow elected county officials with valid concealed-carry handgun licenses to carry firearms while on official business in county courthouses (excluding courtrooms) within their districts
“Sometimes folks get so mad at the government, they choose to make rash decisions and act out against an elected official,” Cleveland stated in the release. “We are expecting the best and preparing for the worst.”
Despite some Democrat resistance, HB 1104 passed 85-11. Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) will be the principal Senate author. His previously authored SB 66 sought similar handgun allowances at the Capitol.