March 16, 2018 Weekly Wrap

Transformational Teacher Pay Raise Plan Announced

On Thursday, House Speaker Charles McCall unveiled the Transformational Teacher Pay Raise plan that will give all teachers a 5 percent pay raise in year one and a step plan that would total $70,000 in pay and benefits for a 25-year teacher by the end of year six.

At the end of six years, every first-year teacher would earn $10,800 more than on the current state minimum teacher salary schedule, and a 25-year teacher would receive a $20,000, or 50 percent, increase above the current schedule. This would make Oklahoma teachers the highest paid in the region, 18th in the nation and third-highest in the nation when accounting for cost-of-living.

House Completes Floor Deadline

This week was third-reading deadline for all bills and resolutions to be passed out of the Chamber of Origin. The House heard 175 bills this week. Those that passed will now move to Senate committees to be considered, and House committees will begin hearing Senate bills. April 26 is the deadline for bills and resolutions to be passed out of the opposite chamber.

Boles Sworn in to Serve Oklahoma House District 51

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Brad Boles was sworn into the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Friday, March 16, to represent House District 51. The district includes Grady, McClain and Stephens counties in southwest Oklahoma.

Boles was elected in a special election held after the resignation of former Rep. Scott Biggs, who took a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Inman Offers Opportunity to Negotiate Revenue Deal on House Floor

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Scott Inman has filed an amendment to an amendment on House Bill 2152 to offer an opportunity to debate and pass multiple revenue raising measures on the House floor.

House Bill 2152, authored by Speaker Charles McCall, is currently a shell bill that is expected to be used as a vehicle for a future revenue raising measure. The amendment filed by Inman would cap itemized deductions at $12,500 for single filers and $25,000 for joint filers, eliminate capital gains exemptions, and restore the historic gross production tax on oil and gas to 7 percent.

By allowing the revenue package to be pieced together on the House floor through amendments, House members would have an opportunity to not only say they support raising revenue to support teachers and state agencies but prove it.

Senate Repeals State’s Capital Gains Deduction

The Oklahoma Senate this week passed Senate Bill 1086, authored by Sen. Dave Rader and Rep. Earl Sears. The legislation sets a sunset for the capital gains tax deductions for corporations, estates, trusts and individuals. According to estimates, repealing the capital gains deduction would save the state $120 million per year. Public Financial Management Inc. (PFM) consulted with the Incentive Evaluation Commission this past year and identified the capital gains deduction be repealed due to its low return on investment. According to PFM, the deduction has cost the state $475 million over the last five years but has only showed a $9 million return on investment in that same timeframe.

Senate approves Medicaid reform bill
Brecheen says savings could fund $1,400 teacher pay raise

Oklahoma leads 25 other states in the percentage of citizen’s personal income spent on welfare but is only higher than eight other states in the percentage spent on education funding. Sen. Josh Brecheen wants the state to shift its funding priorities.

The Senate approved his Senate Bill 1030 Monday afternoon to reform the state’s Medicaid program by lowering the working-age/able-bodied parent/caretaker Medicaid recipient income threshold to 20 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Currently, eleven other states have their threshold at 24 percent or lower while seven, including Texas and Arkansas, have theirs set below 20 percent.

There are approximately 106,000 Oklahomans who are a part of the parent/caretaker group receiving Medicaid coverage who are able-bodied/working aged adults 19 to 64 and are not pregnant, nursing, disabled or blind. Thirty-two percent of those recipients are male and 25 percent are two adults living in the same home and both receiving Medicaid coverage.

Eligibility for parent/caretaker Medicaid coverage is dependent upon having children, not income alone. However, fifteen percent of the parent/caretaker group is made up of 19 year olds who have no dependents.

SB 1030 now moves to the House for further consideration.

Full Senate takes action to help address Oklahoma’s opioid crisis

The full Senate gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a bill aimed at stemming Oklahoma’s opioid crisis. Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, is the principal author of Senate Bill 1446, which addresses the core problem in this epidemic—the over-prescription of opioids.

According to the recently released report by the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse, in 2016, 60 percent of overdose deaths were attributable to prescription drugs, compared to 40 percent of deaths resulting from illegal drugs. The report, issued in January, acknowledged that “the medical community holds a unique position in the opioid epidemic because of its prescribing authority.”

SB 1446 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Senate approves bill expanding zone of safety to better protect victims of predators

Oklahoma has long protected schools, day care centers and parks with “zones of safety” aimed at keeping convicted sex offenders away from potential victims. But a case in Bristow brought attention to a loophole in the law—a loophole Sen. James Leewright, R- Bristow, and Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Depew, are working to close this legislative session. Senate Bill 1221 was approved unanimously by the full Senate on Monday.

Current law prohibits sex offenders from residing or loitering within a 2,000 foot radius of any public or private school site, education institution, children’s organization, playground or park. SB 1221 would expand the zone of safety to prohibit the offender from loitering within 1,000 feet of the victim’s home or from living within 2,000 feet of the victim’s residence.

SB 1221 will now move to the House for further consideration. A similar measure, House Bill 1124, is awaiting a floor vote in that chamber.