March 20, 2014

Another Bill Bites the Dust

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CAPITOL WATCH
March 20, 2014: Another Bill Bites the Dust

State Capitol - Jan 2014 - 2
In the battlefield that is the Oklahoma Legislature, there are a number of ways for bills to die.

Some bills are voted down in committee or on the floor. Many others fail to get moved out of their house of origin by deadline, which was March 13 this year.

In the Senate this session, out of the 976 bills and 35 joint resolutions filed, 336 survived to move to the House for consideration. In the House, out of 1,197 bills and 23 joint resolutions, 348 were green-lighted to go to the Senate.

Here are eight bills and resolutions that didn’t survive the early stages.

Marijuana
SB 2116, by Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Forest Park
The bill that would legalize marijuana possession and cultivation for those over age 21 didn’t make it to the Senate floor.

Firearms
SB 1473, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow
Dahm’s bill was given the ironic name of the Piers Morgan Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms without Infringement Act, after the former CNN host who favors stricter gun control. Dahm was quoted as saying the bill would expand the rights of citizens to openly carry firearms.

Board of Corrections
HB 2876, by Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole
This bill would have abolished the Oklahoma Board of Corrections and have the department’s director report to the governor.

Prisoner Credits
HB 2732, by Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville
The House voted down this measure, which would have given inmates who are required to serve 85 percent of their sentences a chance to earn credits for good behavior when their sentence starts. Currently, inmates can earn credits only after serving 85 percent of their time.

Agency Consolidation
HB 3028, Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton
The former Speaker of the House proposed consolidating the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Arts Council into the Department of Tourism, but the bill died after being heard in committee.

Teacher Pay
Three House bills, by Reps. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah; Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, and Ann Coody, R-Lawton
Brown’s bill, HB 2313, would have boosted teachers’ pay to the regional average as determined by salaries in surrounding states. Proctor’s HB 2636 proposed to increase teacher pay at schools where the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. HB 2966 by Coody would have increased minimum teachers’ salaries by about $2,000. All three died. Yet funds for pay increases could still come through education appropriations, said Amanda Ewing, associate executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association.

Parent Trigger
HB 2243, by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City
Nelson’s “parent trigger” bill, carried over from last year, would have allowed parents to make administrative changes at poorly performing schools if enough parents signed a petition. Parents could then fire staff, hire a private management company to operate the school or turn the school into a charter school.

Judicial Changes
HBs 3378, 3379, 3380, by Rep. T.W. Shannon
While still speaker, Shannon said he would make judicial reform a priority and introduced various reform bills, none of which survived. The bills would have set term limits for members of the appellate judiciary to 12 years and required Oklahoma Supreme Court justices to retire at 75. A proposed Board on Judicial Performance Evaluation, made up of people appointed by the governor and legislators, was proposed to evaluate judges in the state.

-Carmen Forman