By Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman
Last week was Spring Break for many Oklahomans, including our elected officials. As a result, the Legislature enjoyed an abbreviated schedule, although they did begin consideration of bills that advanced in opposite chambers. This means that all the surviving House Bills will now be heard in the Senate, and Senate Bills in the House over the next five weeks.
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is tracking all the ideas pertaining to children and families. Of the original 2,800 bills filed and able to be considered in February, less than 1,000 now remain for consideration.
Of those which made it to the full body for a vote, about 70 were voted down. Most of the bills that failed to advance were, however, held in committee (rather than voted down), which means they can be considered next year. One piece of legislation that was held over before floor consideration was a school suspension bill that OICA supports by Rep. Jadine Nollan. We are thankful for her work on this issue and look forward to further discussion this summer about the most appropriate and constructive ways to discipline students and protect teachers.
We are thankful for other ideas which did receive a hearing and pass, including Senate Bill 893 by Sen. Paul Scott. This legislation reinstates the tax credit extended to foster parents in Oklahoma. The credit was eliminated a few years ago during the budget struggles, so we are very appreciative that lawmakers recognize the need for this assistance to foster parents.
OICA has also been busy outside of the Capitol as we prepare for our movie night in Tulsa! On Thursday, March 28, we have partnered with the Tulsa World and Tulsa Lawyers for Children to show “Resilience” to an audience for free, courtesy of the Potts Family Foundation. Information for this event is on oica.org and we still have spots available up to the afternoon of the showing. The documentary will be followed by a panel discussion regarding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with Rep. Carol Bush, Dr. Deb Shropshire with the Department of Human Services, Dr. Tessa Chesher from Oklahoma State University, Timothy Michaels-Johnson of Tulsa Lawyers for Children, Dr. Jennifer Hays-Grudo from the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Adversity, and myself. The panel will be moderated by First Lady of Oklahoma, Sarah Stitt. We are very thankful for each of these esteemed Oklahomans for helping with this evening of advocacy!
We are also in the process of working with partners to show the movie around the state in key areas, so if you are interested, please monitor our website and social media for future viewings. ACEs are a key area of concern for Oklahoma and awareness can help our state turn around many of the critical areas where we fall short.
Finally, please also mark the date for our upcoming Child Advocacy Day at the State Capitol on May 8! We hope you can join us as we visit with lawmakers about policies which will improve the lives of children in Oklahoma!