The bill filing deadline has come and gone and we now know what legislative ideas have been submitted by lawmakers. Our team at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is going through the proposals and we will have our list of child-related bills up at oica.org soon for your review.
One thing is for certain: lawmakers have been busy! The State Senate saw 1,040 bills and 21 joint resolutions filed, while the Oklahoma House will have 1,733 bills and another 21 joint resolutions to submit to their committees. This is a record number of new proposals. Additionally, presiding officers in the House and Senate announced their committee leadership and the membership which will serve on them.
While there are many great ideas in this huge stack of new legislation, there are also some that OICA has grave concerns over. We will continue to work with the authors to address those issues, and hopefully reach a position which is child-friendly. We are very optimistic that fresh ideas will make it through the process this year to move Oklahoma toward that position of “top ten in the nation” that newly-elected Governor Kevin Stitt wants to see achieved.
I want to bring attention to some ideas which OICA promoted that were filed by lawmakers. First, we want to express appreciation to Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, for filing House Bill 1022, legislation which will modify the Trauma-Informed Care Task Force, created last session in partnership with the Fallin Administration. This new bill will retain the 17-member task force and keep it intact with the current membership, but it will also add on six lawmakers and two appointments by Gov. Stitt. The idea is to include policymakers who can file legislation based on the proposals from the task force. We will hold the first meeting of the task force on February 12 at the Oklahoma State Capitol, so we will update you further following that initial gathering.
OICA also would like to thank Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, for filing Senate Bill 580, the Oklahoma Early Education Saving Plan. This idea is based loosely on the 529 college savings plan. Like the current 529 savings accounts for college expenses, the new legislation would create a tax savings for parents contributing up to $2500 annually in an account that can be used to help with daycare costs.
We believe that every child should have an opportunity for a quality education starting at an early age and we hope this will allow families to both save money and receive aid from relatives (who can donate to the daycare savings account).
We are also appreciative of Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, for her work to fix how schools deal with suspensions under the definition of assault (it is important to remember that “battery” is actually touching or harming someone; “assault” is feeling threatened). Under current law, if an assault occurs in school, children grades six and older would be suspended for the current semester and the next one. Sen. Ikley-Freeman’s proposal will allow that length of time to be reduced at the discretion of the local school. The bill also suggests counseling for the student be sought prior to a suspension and that in-school suspension should be strongly considered
These are just a few of the bills which we will continue to pursue, and there are many others which I will highlight over the next few weeks. If you would like to be a part of our advocacy team, check out our upcoming training on February 4! Go to oica.org for more information!