Whatzup Politics (1162)
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill modifying Oklahoma statute related to protection of first responders passed the House on Friday with a vote of 75-3.
House Bill 2938, authored by State Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, amends the circumstances under which records related to a public health investigation may be released. If the State Department of Health determines that releasing a patient’s records is necessary to protect the public health, it may only do so if the release is authorized under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Dills said this aligns Oklahoma statute with federal law.
“This helps our first responders know when they might be making a call to a place where someone has tested positive for COVID-19 or another communicable disease so they can be properly equipped and prepared,” Dills said.
She said in the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak many first responders ran low of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves. This measure will help them know when using such equipment is a necessity and conserve it when it is not needed.
“Our first responders have willingly put themselves in harm’s way and worked long hours to ensure the public is safe and treated when there is an emergency,” she said. “We want to be able to ensure they are safe as well.”
McCortney said, “While law enforcement and other first responders have been able to get this information during Oklahoma’s catastrophic health emergency, HB 2938 makes sure this can continue once the emergency order ends. There will still be positive cases after that happens so first responders will still need to know if they’re answering a call that requires PPE. This will also help us be better prepared if there’s another pandemic.”
HB 2938 previously passed in the House and was amended in the Senate. With the approval of the amendment in the House, the bill now moves to the governor’s desk to await being signed into law.
Attorney General Hunter Applauds House and Senate Members for Legislation Creating Opioid Abatement Board
Board will allocate money from opioid settlements to cities and counties
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today commended members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Senate, who voted to create the Oklahoma Opioid Abatement Board.
The board will be responsible for distributing around $25 million from settlements the attorney general reached with opioid manufacturers to eligible cities and counties. The members will develop and implement procedures for the disbursement of the funds to abate the epidemic statewide.
Attorney General Hunter said the board will promote and protect the health of Oklahomans by using the money to comprehensively abate the crisis in collaboration with communities across the state.
“I appreciate the members of the Legislature for their action on this legislation that will get money to communities devastated by the opioid crisis,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Many have been negatively affected by the epidemic. Whether it’s a family member, friend, loved one or neighbor, the disease of addiction does not discriminate. I look forward to working with the members of the board to help our fellow Oklahomans recover.”
Criteria on cities and counties eligibility is listed in the bill. To access the bill, click here: https://bit.ly/2TpD8g7.
“The board will lay the foundation that will assist communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat. “We look forward to the governor signing this bill so we can make our appointments and allow the members to begin the important work abating this problem that has claimed too many lives. I appreciate my colleagues in both chambers for prioritizing the health of Oklahomans by making this piece of legislation a priority.”
The nine member board will consist of the attorney general, or his designee, and an appointee from each of the following: the governor, the state auditor, the state treasurer and the superintendent of public instruction. The speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate pro tem will have two appointees each. The attorney general will only vote in case of a tie.
“The opioid epidemic has devastated families and communities throughout our state,” said House Speaker Charles McCall. "The negative statistics are overwhelming. That is why I was heartened to see such broad support for this legislation. The board’s work will reverse these trends through evidence based opioid use prevention strategies and bring about a brighter future for the next generation of Oklahomans.”
The legislation has been sent to the governor for his signature.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that removes barriers for education professionals to receive their superintendent certification has unanimously passed the Legislature after clearing its final hurdle in the Senate 45-0.
House Bill 3142, authored by State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, provides flexibility for those seeking a superintendent certification and completed their higher education requirements before July 1, 2005.
“Experienced Oklahoma educators have a way forward that will widen the path to becoming a superintendent,” Provenzano said. “We are on the cusp of a large retirement of educators, and the grandfather clause provided by this bill allows those with extensive educational training to step into those top school district jobs.”
Currently, a school principal must complete a standard master’s degree, and a program in education administration approved by the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation with an emphasis on curriculum, instruction and building-level relationships.
Specifically, HB3142 would allow a person who has completed a master’s degree program in education that includes competencies that are substantially equal to existing qualifications, to qualify for the superintendent certification requirements as long as their master’s degree was completed before July 1, 2005.
Prior to 2005, educators who planned to become superintendents were enrolled in “Education” Masters programs. After 2005, it changed to “Education Administration.”
This bill would allow those that obtained their degree before 2005 in “Education” to obtain their superintendent certification. All other requirements, including certification tests, would still need to be met.
“The Legislature listened to the education community,” Provenzano said. “We accomplished something that is going to help school districts be better equipped to serve their students.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill to assist state employees who owe back state income taxes has been sent to the governor for his consideration to be signed into law. State Rep. Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau, announced today that House Bill 3068 passed off the floors of both the House and Senate and the House restored the title to the measure.
The bill now awaits the governor’s action. Kiger thanked House and Senate members for their support and Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, for being the senate author. “This bill will benefit all state employees who may owe back state income taxes from before they went to work for the state,” Kiger said “This provides garnishment of wages of taxes owed instead of other discipline and possible job loss.” Kiger said currently any state employees who may owe the state for a delinquent income tax debt or who have failed to file their taxes may face such discipline or job loss.
This could occur even if their spouses may owe back taxes and they were unaware of this before becoming a state employee. Kiger said before filing the bill he talked to state employees who found themselves in difficult or embarrassing situations when called in by a supervisor to be told they owed taxes and were facing possible discipline that could include termination. Another state employee told him there was a mistake made when his taxes were paid and the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) didn’t show his taxes paid.
This caused him problems and embarrassment in trying to correct the issue.
The new language in HB 3068 allows the OTC to communicate directly with the state employee on the amount owed and terms of wages that will be garnished. Kiger said this should make the situation better for all state employees and the state should more quickly receive taxes owed.
Lundy Kiger represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.
OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, issued the following statement Wednesday in response to the Legislature's successful overrides of Gov. Kevin Stitt's vetoes of four budget bills.
“The Legislature stood united to override the deep cuts these disappointing vetoes would have caused to our shared priority of public education. While we did not take it lightly, we strongly agreed the Legislature’s coequal constitutional powers had to be exercised to correct and override the governor on this matter. With this issue resolved, we are moving forward together for the people of Oklahoma.” – House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka
House Bills 2741, 2742, 2743 and Senate Bill 1922 are now law.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill requiring dyslexia screening for early elementary students not reading on grade level passed the Senate on Wednesday and heads to the governor’s desk to await being signed into law.
House Bill 2804, authored by House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, and Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, passed the Senate with a vote of 46-0. It previously passed the House 92-1.
The measure requires screening for dyslexia for students in kindergarten through third grade who are not reading on grade level beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
“Early screening for this disorder is a game-changer for struggling students,” Sanders said. “Research is clear that when students with dyslexia are identified early and supported, they quickly catch up to their peers in reading and other academic subjects. This changes their trajectory in school and improves their lives in immeasurable ways.”
Bice added, “I’m proud to carry legislation that addresses an overlooked issue in Oklahoma. This is personal to me because my godson was diagnosed with dyslexia. The sooner we can provide early dyslexia screening, the better their educational outcomes will be.”
House Bill 2804 would require any student enrolled in kindergarten through third grade in an Oklahoma public school who is not meeting grade-level targets in reading after the beginning of the school year, to be screened for dyslexia beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.
The measure requires the State Board of Education to develop policies for dyslexia screening, and to adopt a list of approved qualified dyslexia screening tools. The bill also requires school districts to provide the State Department of Education with data about dyslexia, including the number of students screened for dyslexia each year, the number of students identified, and the process used to evaluate students.
“Early identification of risk factors for dyslexia is the exact type of information we wish our sons’ teachers had available when they were in early elementary” said Michelle Keiper and Tiffany Jenkins of Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma. “Instead, both of our sons struggled with the shame of being a struggling reader and teachers who were not able to target their reading intervention needs. We are excited to see this change happening for our next generation of struggling readers.”
Last year, Sanders secured passage of House Bill 1228, which provides professional development for teachers across Oklahoma to help them better recognize signs of dyslexia in their students. Adding screening through HB 2804 was the logical next step, he said.
Sanders also authored legislation this year to add the Dyslexia Handbook to the list of tools available to teachers, parents and school administrators at no cost through the State Department of Education. Sanders said all of the legislation was a recommendation by the Dyslexia and Education Task Force and the SDE as well as Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement announcing that members of the House Democratic Caucus would join legislative Republicans to override Governor Stitt’s veto of House Bill 2741, House Bill 2742 and House Bill 2743.
“This legislative body, led by Republican majorities in both chambers, spent a large portion of last year’s legislative session giving the governor more power. Conversely, Republican leadership has spent this session trying to protect the legislature from an overzealous executive branch instead of taking back those increased powers.
“Last week, our caucus was asked to vote on a budget that borrowed money from Oklahoma retirees to pay the bills of the state. We said ‘no.’ Now, the vote in front of us is to support that budget, which we voted against, or uphold the governor’s veto and cut more than a hundred million dollars to public education.
“In the name of public education, members of the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus will vote to override Governor Stitt’s veto.
“We are doing this while the governor sits on $800 million in federal stimulus money. Now, Governor Stitt is quick to point out that the money can’t be used on anything but things that have been impacted by COVID-19. However, after looking at our state revenue figures, looking at stores shuddered across the state, Oklahoma’s workforce reeling from unemployment and furloughs, we wonder ‘what exactly hasn’t been affected by COVID-19?’
“Moving forward, I hope Oklahomans remember who pulled the easy lever of taking money from retirees and who made the hard decision to fight against it. I hope Oklahomans will remember that their governor gambled with more than $100 million of public education funding and who made the hard decision to fight against it.
“Oklahoma Democrats have been vocal for years about the need to diversify state revenue streams, and we will continue to call for stable, recurring revenue that can support public education and other core services without relying on one-time funds and taking money from pension systems.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Legislature will consider overriding Gov. Kevin Stitt's vetoes of budget legislation today. The House of Representatives returns to session at 5 p.m. and the Senate is currently in session. Overrides of budget legislation vetoes will be taken up today.
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, issued the following joint statement:
"The Legislature will initiate veto overrides immediately. Since the governor refused to do so, legislators will rise to the moment to enact a balanced budget for the people of Oklahoma that protects education from deep cuts without harming the transportation or public retirement systems. The deep education funding cuts the governor’s vetoes cause are unnecessary and unacceptable, as is his false rhetoric about the bills’ effect on the transportation and retirement systems.”
Submitted By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging times in our nation’s history. It has affected everyone differently and for some, stress and uncertainty may negatively impact their mental health. This month is National Mental Health Awareness Month and during this pandemic, when everyone is focused on their physical health, please remember taking care of your mental health is equally important.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have been an advocate for ensuring people have access to the mental health care they need. Several mental health priorities I have been fighting for were signed into law with the last COVID-19 response package, the CARES Act. We have made great strides in reforming mental health laws and expanding services over the past few years and these priorities help build on our progress.
One of those priorities is modernizing care coordination for patients who have a substance use disorder. Doctors must have the whole picture on a patient’s medical history in order to safely and effectively treat them. Previously, federal regulations known as 42 CFR Part 2 determined the confidentiality of patient records for substance use disorder treatment programs. Unfortunately, doctors couldn’t see if a patient had been treated for a substance use disorder, mental illness or other chronic diseases, which for some patients had deadly consequences. Now, we broke down those barriers, while still maintaining patient confidentiality, and brought this outdated law into the 21st century.
Another priority is the reauthorization of the Excellence in Mental Health Demonstration Program, which funds Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). CCBHCs have dramatically improved access to community-based mental health care. For example, Grand Lake Mental Health Center has electronic tablets in Grove Police Department patrol cars that can provide a direct, face-to-face link between a professional and a person in crisis. After an evaluation via tablet, police can divert the patient to a crisis center instead of an emergency room or jail. I am glad to see this program reauthorized and expanded so this vitally important work being done in our communities can continue.
During this pandemic and National Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage you to take some time for your mental health. Go for a walk outside, connect with family and friends or take a step back from COVID-19 related content. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help. We will get through this crisis together.
Want to stay up-to-date on what I’m doing in Oklahoma and Washington on your behalf? Sign up for my newsletter by visiting Mullin.house.gov/newslettersignup.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that will increase pay by $2 an hour for Department of Corrections’ (DOC) employees passed the House on Tuesday with a vote of 99-0.
Senate Bill 1424, by State Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, previously passed the Senate 46-0 and now awaits the governor’s signature to become law.
“We gave many of our state correctional officers a pay increase of two dollars an hour last year,” Ford said, “but some Department of Corrections employees did not receive the raise. This bill corrects that inequity and gives these employees a raise equivalent to the one received by their peers.”
SB 1424 provides a $2 per hour increase over the current hourly wage, or an equivalent amount for those employees not receiving an hourly wage, for each employee of the Department of Corrections with a job description and location outlined in the measure. The increase will apply to personnel employed by DOC on the last working day of June 1, 2020.
Rep. Ford thanks the Oklahoma Public Employees Association for their assistance and help in getting this legislation passed.
Ross Ford represents District 76 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of Tulsa County.