The fourth week of session marks the deadline to hear bills in committee before being heard on the Senate floor.

This year, one of the Senate’s highest priorities is the budget. We are concentrated on seeking reforms that provide long term, sustainable revenue and reduce the state’s dependence on one-time money.

Education and funneling more money into classrooms is also a primary focus, as are teacher pay raises. By finding efficiencies in our education system, we will be better positioned to improve the funding formula.

One of the bills I authored was approved in committee last week. Senate Bill 1016 would allow a poster or framed image with the National Motto, “In God We Trust”, as well as the U.S. and Oklahoma flags to be displayed in public elementary and secondary school libraries and classrooms, as well as all public buildings or facilities in the state that are maintained or operated by state funds.

This proposal doesn’t require public funding, as the images and items authorized in the legislation would either be donated or be purchased solely with private funds made available through voluntary contributions to local schools or their schools boards.

In other news, the governor signed the final version of the 2018 budget this week, officially closing out the second special session. The budget cuts $44.7 million from state agencies over the next four months, with most agencies being forced to reduce between 1 and 2 percent of spending for the remainder of the fiscal year.

This wasn’t a solution anyone wanted, but lawmakers struggled to agree on how to fill the unexpected shortfall after the State Supreme Court ruled the cigarette fee unconstitutional last fall.

Several proposals failed in the House and the option of cutting agency budgets was the final option remaining that would allow us to meet fiscal obligations through the end of the fiscal year in June.

Senator Wayne Shaw (R-Grove) serves District 3 in the Oklahoma State Senate. He may be contacted at 405-521-5574 or shaw@oksenate.gov.