Week 5 - Legislative Session Update

House Passes Measure Sending Judicial Reform to Vote of the People

A bill that would ask voters in November to change the process for nominating appellate judges to fill judicial vacancies passed the House of Representatives this week.

House Bill 3162, known as the “Oklahoma Appellate Courts Accountability Act” and introduced by House Speaker Jeffrey W. Hickman, would place a state question on the ballot to allow voters to change the section of the state Constitution that sets forth the authority of the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

The bill would require the JNC, upon a vacancy in one of the state’s appellate-level courts – the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals or Court of Civil Appeals, – to send a list of all applicants to the governor who meet the “constitutional and statutory qualifications” for judicial office, rather than only sending three applicants. The JNC can then choose to score each applicant on a 0-10 scale and provide that information to the Governor.

Upon nomination by the governor, the nominee would then be confirmed by a select committee of five House members appointed by the House Speaker and five Senate members appointed by the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate. The minority party in each chamber would be guaranteed at least one appointment from the House and one appointment from the Senate to the select committee. 

The current process for selecting District, Associate District and Special Judges would remain unchanged under the proposal. 

The JNC is a fifteen-member panel that receives and reviews all applications for judicial vacancies in all district and appellate level courts in Oklahoma and submits a list of three applicants to the governor for consideration. Six members of the panel are appointed by the governor, six members are selected by the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA), one member is appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and one member is selected by the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate. The final member is selected by the other members of the JNC. 

Under Hickman’s proposal, all appointees to the JNC by the governor, Speaker of the House and Pro-Tempore of the Senate would serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority until replaced. The term limits of the six members appointed by the OBA and at-large selection would remain unchanged.

The measure passed out of the House by a vote of 58-34 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

  

House approves legislation to improve alternative teaching certification

Legislation that would improve the alternative teaching certification process was approved this week by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. 

Current law requires a candidate for alternative certification to have a college GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale before even being allowed to begin pursuit of an alternative certification degree.

House Bill 3025, by state Rep. John Paul Jordan, would remove the GPA requirement, but leave in place certification testing.

Unfortunately, a national teacher shortage has hit Oklahoma especially hard, Jordan said. 

Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister praised the bill’s passage.

 

House Passes Bill Requiring Concussion Training for Secondary School Officials, Coaches

Legislation requiring schools to develop comprehensive concussion protocols and require annual training for officials and coaches passed off the House floor this week. 

House Bill 2760, by state Rep. Dan Kirby, would require the Oklahoma Department of Health to create a concussion management section on its website to provide guidelines for school districts to use to develop policies and procedures for use when an athlete has sustained or is suspected to have sustained a concussion during practice or a game.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that the number of reported concussions among high school athletes has more than doubled during the last 10 years. 

Those guidelines can include, but are not limited to, a concussion and head injury information sheet for officials, coaches, athletes and parents, “Return to Learn” guidelines for teachers as students with head injuries return to the classroom, “Graduated Stepwise Return to Athletic Participation” guidelines for game officials and coaches as athletes with head injuries return to athletic participation and links to free online concussion training from the CDC, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) or other comparable resources. 

House Bill 2760 passed off the House floor by a vote of 65-26 and now moves to the Senate for consideration. 

 

House approves insurance verification reform

Legislation that would keep some motorists with insurance from receiving a fine when they fail to carry their insurance verification form was approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives this week. 

House Bill 2473, by state Rep. Ken Walker, would remove the penalty for failure to show proof of insurance in instances in which an officer is able to verify a person’s insurance. He said that law enforcement currently has access to a person’s insurance coverage when they look up the person’s tag or vehicle identification number. 

The legislation was approved by a vote of 80-13.

Walker said that law enforcement has expressed concerns that there would be instances in which online insurance verification would not have a motorist on file. He noted that his legislation allows for a fine in instances where law enforcement cannot verify insurance through a database.

The legislation now heads to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration.

 

Oklahoma House recognizes ‘schools of character’

Schools recognized for their character programs were honored this week by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

State Rep. Ken Walker, who serves on the board of OKcharacter.org, said that schools are increasingly recognizing the value they can provide by adding character programs to the services they provide to Oklahoma children.

Don Raleigh, superintendent of Pryor Public Schools, said the school district is in the fifth year of a Leader in Me program. The school district has been recognized at the state and national level for its character program.

Malinda Lindsey, principal of the Muskogee Early Childhood Center, said the staff is very excited to be recognized at the state Capitol. 

Sheril Morgan, director for National Schools of Character, said that when young people spend so much time with educators, character education cannot be neglected. 

OKcharacter.org is an organization with free resources for any school or school district in Oklahoma. Apply to the organization for the new cycle beginning June 30, 2016, for information on how to be recognized as a school of character.

 

Measure Aimed at Eradicating Feral Hog Population Clears Committee

A measure aimed at reducing the number of feral hogs in Oklahoma passed out of a House committee recently. 

 House Bill 1068, by state Rep. Bobby Cleveland, would allow for nighttime hunting and headlight hunting of feral swine on private land if the hunter has permission from the landowner and has registered with the Department of Wildlife Conservation. 

 The Samuel Roberts Noble Research Foundation has estimated the feral hog population in Oklahoma to be as high as 1.6 million, with hogs verified in all 77 counties. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture has reported that feral hogs can carry up to 30 different diseases.

The bill would also require the Department of Wildlife to develop an online permitting process for the nighttime feral swine permit for private land

 House Wildlife Committee by a vote of 4-1 and now heads to the House floor for consideration.

 

ALSO IN THE NEWS

  • State Treasurer Ken Miller reported Thursday, February’ gross revenue collections continued to fall for the 10th consecutive month,.  February receipts of $758.5 million were down by $90 million or 10% compared to February of last year.
  • HB1471 authored by Rep. Justin Wood is a measure that prohibits minors from using a tanning device in a tanning facility. The bill passed by a vote of 55 to 42.
  • HB2491 authored by Rep. Ann Coody is a measure that requires the Department of Human Services to notify the designated federal authorities at the federal military installation where the active duty service member is assigned and that the Department has received a report that such child may be abused, neglected or drug-endangered if the child is a member of an active duty military family. The bill passed by a vote of 90 to 5.
  • HB2816 authored by Rep. Ken Walker is a measure that prohibits elected officials within the three months prior to an election from using or allowing the use of their name, image, likeness or voice in a public service announcement or in an advertisement or other promotional message created or purchased using public funds. The bill exempts situations involving declared state disasters or emergencies. The bill passed by a vote of 97 to 0.
  • HB2822 authored by Rep. Denney is a measure which requires the State Board of Education to grant an alternative placement teaching certificate to a person who has made application to the Board Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. The bill passed the floor 98-0.
  • The JCR to SB1570 which was a measure carried by Rep. LePak and authored by Rep. Dennis Ray Casey, and Rep. Earl Sears, transfers all property of the Will Rogers Memorial Commission to the Oklahoma Historical Society and places the governance of the commission under the governance of the Oklahoma Historical Society.  It passed the House floor Wednesday morning
  • On Wednesday morning the House Rules committee, without discussion or debate, voted unanimously to strike title from 11 measuresThey were: HB1802,2287,2434,2553,2719,2719,2962,3104,3142,HJR1045, HJR1052.