For The Children Weekly Column

Speaking for Children in a Deadline Week

Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Legislature is in its second deadline week, when bills must pass out of the “house of origin,” meaning House bills must pass out of the House of Representatives, and Senate bills must pass out of the State Senate, or they are dead.

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) started the year tracking about 650 bills; that number is now 258 after committees finished their work. Following this deadline on Thursday, March 14, dozens more bills will fall by the wayside.

Tuesday (March 12) was the day for child advocates from across the state to come to the State Capitol for OICA’s annual Chili Cookoff and Advocacy Day. Advocates were briefed on bills which OICA supports, some that I would like to highlight.

The first two are “carryover bills,” those first introduced last year, in the first year of a Legislature after an election but remain alive until the end of the session this year. House Bill 2102, by Rep. Forrest Bennett and Sen. Brenda Stanley, is the Hope Shaffer Act, named for a young Oklahoman killed in a wreck involving drivers’ education. The measure would give parents the right to determine whether to allow their child to ride in a car driven by a student driver.

Another, House Bill 1028, would end the practice of using corporal punishment on children with developmental disabilities. Despite the misguided arguments of those who oppose the bill, there is no evidence to suggest such punishment is effective. In fact, evidence exists to suggest it is unnecessarily cruel. Rep. John Talley and Sen. Dave Rader sponsored the bill.

House Bill 3329, by Rep. Cynthia Roe and Senator Stanley, would require public and charter schools with 6th through 12th grades to provide free menstrual products in all female, single-use, and standalone handicapped bathrooms.

Rep. Nicole Miller and Sen. Jessica Garvin are sponsoring HB 3671, which would allow for a person with autism to designate that on their driver license.

House Bill 3836 by Rep. Ajay Pittman and Sen. Jessica Garvin is known as “Handle with Care” to ensure schools are notified when a child may be affected by a traumatic event so that they may be “handled with care.”

OICA joins with The State Chamber in supporting HB 4147, by Rep. Suzanne Schreiber and Sen. Adam Pugh, which would create a tax credit for employers who help employees pay for childcare or operate a daycare for employees.

Senate Bill 1278 by Senator Garvin and Rep. Nick Archer would expand the state employee parental leave to employees of the state’s colleges and university, while Senate Bill 1315 by Senator Pugh and Rep. Rhonda Baker would allow for paid adoption leave.

Sen. Roger Thompson and Representative Lawson have introduced Senate Bill 1324, which would create a universal electronic application for free and reduced-price meals for Oklahoma students.

A series of bills focus directly on student health: SB 1921 by Sen. Paul Rosino and Rep. Bob Ed Culver requires schools to develop a cardiac emergency response plan, while House Bill 3327 & Senate Bill 1578 by Representative Roe and Sen. Greg McCortney would allow school health professionals to download a diabetic student’s glucose number from a continuous monitor, if parents agree. Finally, House Bill 3034 by Rep. Preston Stinson and Senator Pugh would require schools to call 911 if Epinephrine is administered to a student.

OICA strongly supports all these bills. We are also keeping an eye on several bills our Board and Advocacy Committee feel are not in the best interest of Oklahoma’s children. I will highlight those issues in the coming weeks.