Week 9 - Legislative Session Update

Measure to Eliminate End-of-Instruction Exams to be Considered This Week

A bi-partisan measure that would eliminate high-stakes end-of-instruction tests for Oklahoma students has been scheduled for conference committee this week in the House.

House Bill 1622, authored in 2015 by state Rep. David Derby and held over at the end of last session, would eliminate all K through 12 common education tests not required by the federal government. There are currently 26 standardized tests for K through 12 instruction in Oklahoma. This measure would end nine of those tests.

"This is a bill that several legislators have provided input for since the end of last session," said Derby, R-Owasso. "It reflects many of the concerns that teachers and superintendents have expressed to us repeatedly about over-testing students. They believe students are being way overtested, and that instruction time is being wasted on preparing students for these exams that could be used in more efficient and effective ways."

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Conference Committee on Common Education.

State Rep. Michael Rogers, a former principal, said the ending those tests makes sense.

"Colleges don't measure those tests when they are reviewing applicants, so it simply doesn't make sense to burden our students, our teachers and our school districts with the time and cost of these exams," said Rogers, R-Broken Arrow. "We've heard from teachers that these exams are too burdensome, so why are we doing more than what is federally required? We certainly need to go in different direction, and this measure is a good first step down that path." 

State Rep. Lee Denney echoed those sentiments.

"We need to test students, because testing is valuable, but we need to test what matters for our students' long-term success," said Denney, R-Cushing. "Most EOIs are time consuming and are not adequately preparing our students for college. This bill will give our teachers more instruction time and save the state millions in mandated testing costs." 

A bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers praised Rep. Derby's efforts: 

"Teachers, administrators and parents across the state have complained about burdensome testing - especially the EOI's," said state Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada. "It is my hope that we can work together to address their concerns, working with Superintendent Hofmeister to develop of more effective and better received plan." 

"I applaud Rep Derby's work on HB 1622," said state Rep. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester. "This legislation removes the requirements of some of the testing and returns a lot of the testing issue to local control."

"Our current testing program decreases valuable instruction during classrooms hours," said state Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow. "Our teachers need to be teaching subject matter, instead of 'teaching to the test'."

"EOI's are not required to enter college or any collegiate programs so why bother with them in the first place?," asked state Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan. "It is nonsense to use essential classroom teaching time testing kids when the tests have no beneficial purpose. 

"Teachers need to be allowed to work on curriculum, creating learning environments that students enjoy and look forward to. Parents should be free to enjoy their kids in the evenings and focus on their learning material in a more relaxed and fun way. Kids learn better when they are stress free. Regular testing establishes what kids are learning and what needs to be addressed with individual students. EOI testing causes a great deal stress for teachers, parents, and most of all our students. It's simply not necessary."

New academic standards go into effect

On Monday, March 28, Senate leaders decided not to hear a House resolution to approve new academic standards with instructions for state education officials to make minor corrections before implementation. This means that they will go into automatic effect without those instructions. If changes are made, they will be subject to legislative approval. If the standards are left as is, then they will be the new standards for Oklahoma.

These new standards are part of a process begun in 2014 after legislators voted to overturn Common Core Standards. Under the 2014 law, the state education board was to create new standards with input from K-12 schools, higher education institutions and CareerTech. In February of this year, the Legislature received a copy of these new standards. The Legislature had until Monday, March 28, to act on the standards. When Senate leaders chose not to act, they took effect.

Senate committee votes against Medicaid reduction plan

Legislation to allow the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to cut non-pregnant, able-bodied adults from the Medicaid rolls failed this week by a Senate committee.

House Bill 2665 requires the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to promulgate rules that eliminate benefits for any non-pregnant, able-bodied adult less than 65 years of age. Doing so, may require federal approval, which the agency will have to request in order to comply with all provisions of the measure.

With regular cuts to health care spending, ensuring benefits go to those that need them most is a necessity, according to proponents of the measure. Examples of those who need it most include 500,000 children living in poverty and 200,000 aged, blind and disabled individuals.

The bill failed on a vote of 5 to 3.

Senate committee approves autism coverage mandate

Legislation requiring health benefit plans to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders in individuals less than 9 years of age was approved by a Senate committee.

House Bill 2962 requires a health benefit plan to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals less than nine years of age, or if an individual is not diagnosed or treated until after three years of age, and requires the coverage be provided for at least six years, provided that the individual continually and consistently shows sufficient progress and improvement as determined by the health care provider. The bill establishes requirements for the coverage. The bill also requires the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals less than nine years of age, or if an individual is not diagnosed or treated until after three years of age, and requires the coverage be provided for at least six years, provided that the individual continually and consistently shows sufficient progress and improvement as determined by the health care provider. The bill establishes requirements for the coverage.

The legislation now awaits consideration by the full Senate. If approved with title on, it will go to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

House committee approves Bill of Rights Monument Display Act

The House Tourism and International Relations Committee unanimously approved the Bill of Rights Monument Display Act Monday.

Senate Bill 14 authorizes the State Capitol Preservation Commission or its designee to permit and arrange for the placement on the Capitol grounds of a monument displaying the Bill of Rights. The bill requires the monument to be designed, constructed, and placed on the grounds by private entities at no expense to the state. The bill authorizes the State Capitol Preservation Commission or designee to assist private entities in selecting a location for the monument and arranging a suitable time for its placement.

The location of the monument is yet to be determined.

Bill Allows Military ID to Serve as Valid Permit for Firearm Carry

The House this week passed a bill that would allow active duty servicemen and women to use their military IDs as a valid permit for carrying a firearm.

Senate Bill 735, by Sen. Kimberly David, R-Porter, and Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, would allow a person 21 years or older who is on active military duty, National Guard duty, regular military or National Guard reserve duty or has retired or been honorably discharged from military service to carry a concealed or unconcealed firearm if the person presents a valid military identification card in lieu of a handgun license.

The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration.

Measure Increasing Penalty for Stolen Valor Clears Committee

Those who fraudulently hold themselves out to be a veteran or active military member in order to obtain benefits would be subject to an increased fine under a bill that passed out of Senate committee this week.

House Bill 2450, by state Rep. James Leewright, would increase the fine from $100 to $1000 for impersonating a member of the Armed Forces by wearing any decoration or medals awarded to members of the Armed Forces.

Leewright said the issue of stolen valor has increased dramatically since the 9/11 attacks and the military response that followed it, as Americans have openly honored active and veteran military personnel.

Most people who impersonate a military member want to share in that honor, while others just want to take advantage of military discounts and free services offered to veterans and active duty personnel, he said.

The bill passed out of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and now awaits consideration on the Senate floor.