For the Children: A Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, CEO – OICA
Now that the 2020 session of the Oklahoma Legislature is underway, we have a better idea of measures we as child advocates must support and those about which we must be cautious.
Normally there are 149 lawmakers, 101 state representatives and 48 state senators. There are currently two vacancies, one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. The 147 left were busy, filing 2,243 new bills for this year. Combined with the those still alive from last year, lawmakers have more than 4,500 bills bouncing around the State Capitol that could be considered.
The good news is only a small number will make it to Governor Kevin Stitt’s desk to be signed into law or vetoed. Groups like the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy monitor these bills, providing insight to lawmakers as the bills work through the Legislature.
Several hundred child-related bills were filed. OICA will send out notices each Monday about which bills are coming up in committees during the week. If you want to get those notices, along with “action alerts” for high-priority bills, go to our website at www.oica.org and sign up for our newsletter. You will get legislative alerts and our weekly newsletter sent each Thursday at 2 p.m.
The issue of health care, which affects us all but especially children and seniors, will be a hot topic this year. Thousands of Oklahomans signed a petition saying they want to vote on Medicaid expansion for low-income Oklahomans. The governor proposed an alternative, signing on to a Trump Administration program to give block grants to states instead of the guaranteed coverage the initiative petition would create.
OICA will watch both proposals as one side waits for the governor to set a date for the election and the governor’s plan is considered by lawmakers. We hope to set up a forum for this discussion with experts who discuss both plans and the benefits and drawbacks of each.
The Oklahoma Municipal League’s Congress of Mayors met last week, passing resolutions on a pair of issues important to OICA. The first is on the upcoming census on April 1; mayors pledged to increase awareness on the census, to help ensure everyone is counted.
The mayors also voted to encourage state lawmakers to enact policies to reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences or “ACEs.” This reflects OICA strongest position as reducing ACEs is the best way to improve Oklahoma’s standing on child wellbeing; OICA is grateful for the mayors’ support.
Finally this week, thank you to Governor and First Lady Stitt for hosting a benefit dinner at the Governor’s Mansion for OICA’s efforts. Each year, OICA auctions “Dinner with the First Family” at our Heroes Ball. Tom Rosser was the winning bidder and we are grateful for his generosity. It was an enjoyable evening with conversation about issues important to Oklahomans.
This year’s Heroes Ball is July 31. Mark your calendar as this is one of the best events supporting Oklahoma’s children; we would love for you to join us as we all work to make our state a better place for children and families.
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.”