“Children’s Legislators of the Year” Exemplify Service to Oklahoma’s Youngest Residents

Tuesday, 11 June 2024 08:23

“Children’s Legislators of the Year” Exemplify Service to Oklahoma’s Youngest Residents Featured

Written by Joe Dorman, OICA CEO
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Each year, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) works with lawmakers to pursue policies which will benefit youth. Following every session, we select “Children’s Legislators of the Year” who did tremendous work for youth, along with retiring lawmakers who have had a distinguished career in working on youth issues. I will recognize those retirees in my column next week to honor space allowed for my weekly column.

In the Senate, our board chose Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa; Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City; and Sen. JoAnna Dossett, D-Tulsa as the Children’s Senators of the Year.

OICA’s honorees as Children’s Representatives of the Year are Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater; Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-OKC; and Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, for their work on legislative issues.

Senator Rader and Representative Talley worked to advance legislation which would have prevented school employees from the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping or any other physical force used as a means of discipline for certain categories of special needs students, a practice still allowed in dozens of school districts around the state. The legislation in no way impacts parental actions, but simply prevents a government employee from striking children who often are not capable of understanding why they are being hit.

Representative Bennett and Senator Stanley authored The Hope Shaffer Act, a new law which will require parents of students in commercial driver’s education vehicles to sign a waiver of understanding that a student driver will be operating a vehicle with their child in the backseat while in operation. Hope was a young Oklahoman who died in a car crash while in the back seat of such a vehicle. We appreciate these two lawmakers for their work, as do the parents of Hope who worked tirelessly at the State Capitol to see this pass.

Senator Dossett has been working to improve access to maternity and parental leave for Oklahoma parents of newborns, along with championing many public education efforts. Senator Dossett also worked with Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, to pass a law which adjusts the membership of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee and directs birthing centers report certain information related to maternal deaths, critical information needed when conducting investigations.

Representative Boatman has been the most solid leader working on mental health issues in the state Legislature. He is a true “compassionate conservative” in balancing budgets while providing much needed resources for Oklahomans struggling with mental health issues which lead often to homelessness, suicide, and incarceration. By addressing this epidemic through his legislative work, Representative Boatman has helped improve conditions which will soon see better results thanks to his work.

In a few days, we should have our annual legislative report card finalized for review on our website. You can go to https://www.oica.org to see how your senator and representatives rated in the bills which OICA graded. While OICA cannot endorse candidates in elections due to our nonprofit status, this scorecard is not for election purposes, but simply informative so you will know which positive and negative actions were taken in the 2024 legislative session by policymakers as determined by our Advocacy Committee.

In closing, I want to remind Oklahomans that the Primary Election Day is on Tuesday, June 18th and it is important to exercise this most important of rights given to Americans. You can vote at your county election board this weekend or at your polling place on Tuesday.

Please vote in an informed manner and elect leaders who will serve in the best interest of Oklahoma’s children.

 

About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action and changing policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”

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