Week 8 - Legislative Session Update

 

Governor Signs Bills Providing Supplemental Funding for Education, Corrections

Gov. Mary Fallin this week signed to measures that would release supplemental funding from the states Rainy Day Fund to the Oklahoma Department of Education and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections so those departments can carry out core functions through the end of the current fiscal year.

The Legislature released $51 million to the Oklahoma State Department of Education and $27.5 million to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

The bills come after an agreement between Gov. Mary Fallin, House Speaker Jeff Hickman and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman to offset budget cuts to these two state agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year.

 

House Approves Updated Curriculum Standards, But Requires Changes

The Oklahoma House of Representatives this week approved redrafted academic standards for the state's K-12 education system with instructions to the state Board of Education to make some minor tweaks.

The House adopted House Joint Resolution 1070, which approved the new curriculum standards but with the requirement the Board of Education make minor but substantive changes to some of the redrafted standards before they are implemented prior to the 2016-2017 school year. The resolution requires the Board to compile a list of "clarifications, revisions, improvements and additions" to the new standards that have been suggested by the South Central Comprehensive Center at the University of Oklahoma and various other "outside reviewers" and to implement those changes into the redrafted standards.  

The deadline to pass HJR 1070 in the Senate is Monday. If no action is taken, any revisions to the new academic standards by the State Board of Education will have to come back to the Legislature for an additional 30-day review process. With passage of HJR 1070, the board can quickly make revisions, submit a report of these changes and not have to come back to the Legislature for approval. 

 

Rules Committee Approves Constitutional Amendment to Lengthen Term Limits

The House Rules Committee approved a constitutional amendment to extend term limits for statewide elected officials from eight to 12 years. Senate Joint Resolution 45, if approved by the full House will go to the November 2016 ballot and let voters decide whether or not they want to extend the term limits for their elected representatives and senators.

Proponents of the amendment note that while term limits are appropriate, a longer length of time would ensure more institutional memory and knowledge of the process and past policy decisions.

SJR45 was approved by a unanimous vote of 9-0 and now proceeds to the full House for consideration.

 

Oklahoma Astronaut Tom Stafford Honored with Portrait in Capitol

One of the state's most famous sons was honored on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives this week with the unveiling of a portrait that will hang in the House lobby.

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Thomas P. Stafford, former Air Force test pilot and astronaut, was presented with the portrait by state Rep. Harold Wright.

Stafford was born in and graduated from high school in Weatherford before attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  He was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force in 1952 flying the F-86D Sabre and later serving as a flight instructor. In 1962, Stafford was selected by NASA to participate in the Gemini and Apollo space projects. Stafford manned six flights into space, which included serving as Commander of Apollo 10, the second manned mission to orbit the moon. He later commanded the Air Force Test Flight Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Norman artist Mike Wimmer was commissioned to paint the portrait.

United States Supreme Court Rejects State Lawsuit Over Colorado's Marijuana Laws

In a 6-2 ruling this week the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the state's request to join Nebraska in a lawsuit against Colorado. The states were arguing that Colorado's laws legalizing the use of marijuana harmed surrounding states when those drugs flowed across their borders and put stress on their law enforcement resources.