With the holiday season coming to a close, those who work in and around the State Capitol will now heavily focus on what lies in wait: the 2019 regular session of the Oklahoma Legislature.  The work will continue at a furious pace, with our next deadline falling on December 28 to have language for bill suggestions to legislative staff so they can begin the work of drafting potential new laws.  The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has been working cooperatively with lawmakers to file a variety of ideas to support the children of our state.
 
Our policy agenda, largely shaped by the work done at the OICA Fall Forum, includes several key areas of focus, including: Childhood Services, Health Care, Prevention Education, Criminal Justice Reform, Poverty, Transportation and Housing Barriers. Within these categories, we have generated about fifty proposed policy and law modifications to improve the quality of life for Oklahoma’s children.  I am very thankful for the lawmakers who not only agreed to file bills for specific ideas, but also the legislators who filed “placeholder” bills for OICA to ensure that something could be considered this session.  A “placeholder” bill is one that a lawmaker will give to the staff to draft, with the intention of finding another lawmaker who can shepherd it through the legislative process.
 
In addition to pushing our own policy agenda, OICA will also assist lawmakers with their own ideas, work with constituents who have recommended changes, or other partner organizations that are seeking a mission-specific change to state law.  We were proud to assist several organizations this past session who successfully pushed for policy changes, and we hope to continue that effort.  In fact, OICA will hold regular lunch meetings with partner organizations to meet with our Capitol team to discuss how the session is progressing and what is going on with child-related legislation.  Our goal is to promote a dialogue on how advocates can work together to ensure success for policies that are needed for our state’s children.  If you have an interest in attending these every-other-week luncheons, contact the OICA office for more details, or email me at jdorman@oica.org for more information.
 
I also encourage you to save the date for our annual advocacy training that OICA holds with the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition.  This event will occur on Monday, February 4, which is also the first regular day of the legislative session.  We will hold workshops that morning about the process, and then we will watch Governor Stitt’s first State of the State speech, followed by a panel discussion about what to expect.  You can learn more about this at www.oica.org and sign up on this site.  We hope you will join us!