Many Child-Related Bills Moving at the State Capitol
March 27, 2023
“For the Children” Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, OICA CEO
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature reached its second major deadline, and several thousand bills have been either rejected in their houses of origin or were simply not heard.
Up to now, House bills have been considered only by representatives, while senators worked on Senate bills. Now, House bills still alive are in Senate committees while Senate bills still viable are in House committees.
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) started tracking 403 bills that would impact children and families. We are down to fewer than 150 that we are actively tracking.
Two companion bills, House Bill 1017 and Senate Bill 907 by Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Mark Lawson, R- Sapulpa, would create the “Family Representation and Advocacy Act.” The bills provide support for more family law attorneys to represent families and intervene with court-ordered services rather than sending children to foster care.
Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, have House Bill 2513 expanding the “Handle with Care” program statewide. “Handle with Care” would be the code provided to a school district by law enforcement to let the educators know a traumatic event occurred the previous day with a student.
That way, if the student acts up or lashes out due to parents being arrested or some traumatic event, the school can be ready with counselors or know to not be punitive during a highly-emotional time. Law enforcement would preserve integrity of investigations and privacy of minors.
Following the tragic death of a driver’s education student, Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, re-filed the “Hope Shaffer Act,” legislation which would require private driver’s education programs get a parental permission waiver for students to be in the back seat of vehicles during lessons on city streets. This legislation narrowly was defeated in committee last year; this year, it has enjoyed strong support.
House Bill 1376 by Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, would establish a program for Oklahoma school districts to provide free meals beyond the current federal poverty limit up to an elevated threshold. Many schools cover such meals for students if the school district has an elevated poverty level through the Community Eligibility Provision. This legislation would have the state cover the cost in any school, helping those families who are struggling.
One measure that made national news was House Bill 1028 by Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater, and Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. The bill would prohibit corporal punishment for children falling under the 13 points detailed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Unbelievably, the bill failed on its first consideration, generating almost universal condemnation from across the nation. Before passage on reconsideration, an amendment was approved that would allow the State Board of Education to determine which of those 13 conditions would qualify. If you would like to learn more about this final bill, tune into the Oklahoma News Report on PBS this weekend as I will be debating one lawmaker who argued against and remains opposed to this bill.
OICA will continue to keep you aware of the progress of these and other issues going through the system, and we encourage you to contact lawmakers. To find out who represents you, go to http://www.oklegislature.gov/FindMyLegislature.aspx.