I supported a bill this week that would strengthen the likelihood that people convicted of killing law enforcement officers would receive the death penalty or life in prison with no possibility of early release.
House Bill 1306 creates the Blue Lives Matter in Oklahoma Act of 2017, which provides that any person convicted of or who pleads guilty or nolo contendere to murder in the first degree of a law enforcement officer, correctional officer or corrections employee while in the performance of their duties shall be punished by death or life in prison without parole.
The author of the law said he was inspired to write this legislation after nationwide killings of police officers. He also had a personal friend whose son-in-law was killed in the line of duty.
One lawmaker who debated in favor of this bill made the point that this is the type of law we hope never to have to use. We hope the murder of law enforcement officers is one day only a distant memory.
But in the world we now live in, this is unfortunately a reality. While this law won’t stop lawless people from perpetrating terrible crimes, at the very least it shows our law enforcement community that we as a body have their backs.
We care that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for our personal safety. We will do everything within our power to make their jobs easier and to keep them safe, and should the worst happen, we will pursue and prosecute their killers to the fullest extent of the law.
Also this week, I supported House Bill 1693, which puts in place a new framework for the state’s A-F School Report Card.
Since this report card was first rolled out in 2012 it has been controversial. School personnel have complained that the formula was weighted too heavily on only scores from end-of-year tests by students in certain grades and didn’t factor in all of the other things that go into educating children.
The new formula developed by the State Department of Education in conjunction with other education groups and experts addresses those concerns and still meets federal accountability requirements.
It’s important that our schools be accountable to parents and to taxpayers. We want an honest indicator or how well they are teaching students and preparing them for life after K-12, but we need to make sure the measures we use are accurate and fair.
We also know that just like the report card we get for our children this doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s up to us as parents and community members to be involved in our local schools and to support our teachers.
This will lead to schools that are the best they can be and students who are prepared for the next steps in life.
Rep. Josh West, (R-Grove), serves District 5 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. For more information, persons interested may contact him at email@example.com or 405-557-7415.