Last week was the deadline for measures to have their third reading in their House of origin.
At the beginning of the session, there were 1,061 Senate Bills and Senate Joint Resolutions filed, and after last week’s deadline 429 bills passed off the Senate floor and two have been signed by the governor (SB 456 and SB 457).
We are almost halfway through this year’s session, and the Senate Republican’s vision for moving Oklahoma forward is resonating at the Capitol and across the state.
We are making good progress on the legislative agenda items that were highlighted back in January before session started.
We continue to work towards those goals with optimism, as bills are moving forward on all four agenda points: Budget transparency, government accountability, education investment & reform and criminal justice reform.
Last week, Gov. Stitt signed the government accountability bills, marking the start of transformational change in the way government works in Oklahoma.
These government accountability measures represent some of the most substantial reforms made in Oklahoma and allow the Governor to hire and/or fire and set the salary of agency directors, with Senate confirmation required for each agency director.
The state’s largest five agencies will have a nine-member board, with the Governor having five appointments; the Senate PPT and House Speaker each getting two appointments.
Each governing board members serves at-will and can be removed by the appointing authority, whether it be the governor, the Pro Tem or the Speaker.
The measure provides a conflict of interest provision stipulating board members can’t take a vote on something in which they have a direct financial interest.
The bill also allows agency directors to be dismissed by a two-thirds vote of both the Senate and the House.
Another area of progress is the approval of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT). LOFT will give lawmakers and the public tools to better hold agencies accountable by providing independent data on budgets and performance.
More than 30 states have an office similar to LOFT; and in those states, lawmakers have access to objective data they can use to set spending priorities and evaluate agency performance.
The key parts of Senate Bill 1 stipulate LOFT will conduct performance evaluations of agencies, programs, or specific divisions and will have open access to all agency data and budgets.
The agency would be overseen by a bipartisan committee of House and Senate members and would have a small nonpartisan, independent staff of highly educated professionals.
The state’s investment in education continues to be a high priority, and the legislature is committed to giving students as much time as possible in the classroom.
Senate Bill 441 allows local input on specific district needs by giving school officials the choice in what school calendar option to pursue. Under SB 441, school districts would have three options: 180 days of classroom time, 1,080 hours with a minimum of 165 days of classroom time, or 1,080 hours with no minimum of days of classroom time if districts are able to meet the minimum guidelines for school performance and cost savings.
This allows flexibility for school districts to choose the option that best suits the needs of their district while still ensuring quality classroom time for students.
Aside from the daily routine of committee and floor work, one of my favorite things about the legislative session is welcoming constituents, friends and others to the Capitol.
There’s no better way to experience state government than to spend a day at the statehouse on a busy legislative day. In the past few weeks, our office has hosted several students from our district who served as Senate pages.
Chouteau High School senior, Victoria Middleton, is paging for the Senate this week, and last month we had the pleasure of hosting two additional pages, seniors Jewel Bibelheimer and Elizabeth Hokit, also from Choteau High School.
Also this week, our office has welcomed three ministers from First Christian Church in Grove to serve as Chaplains of the Day. We were honored to have Thomas Hawkins, Youth Minister, Susie Niehus, Children’s Minister and Ron Riley, Senior Pastor join us this week to lead our sessions with a few words each day.
Senator Wayne Shaw (R-Grove) serves District 3 in the Oklahoma State Senate. He may be contacted at 405-521-5574 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His office is in Room 233 at the capitol building.