McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Opinion

April 25, 2014

At the Capital with Rep. Donnie Condit

McALESTER — At the close of the recent three-day filing period for state offices, I was the only candidate who filed for the House District 18 seat. I am sincerely grateful to my constituents for allowing me to serve you for another two-year term at the state Capitol. We in the Legislature are still wrestling with myriad issues, including public education, health care, roads and bridges, prisons, low salaries of correctional officers, and tax matters. I promise you I will continue to carefully weigh the issues, and cast my votes in a manner that represents the wishes of the majority of the people in my legislative district.

All foster parents would be accorded a $5,000 income-tax exemption as compensation for providing care for foster children under Senate Bill 1621. Existing law authorizes a $2,500 deduction for single foster parents and $5,000 for a married foster couple filing jointly. Married couples filing their income taxes separately would each receive a $2,500 deduction. “We need more foster parents in Oklahoma,” said Rep. Pat Ownbey, House sponsor of the measure. “Anything we can do to bolster foster parents is good for Oklahoma’s child welfare system.”

A measure that would prevent menacing sex offenders from trolling for victims in parks was approved by the House and returned to the Senate for consideration of an amendment. State law already establishes a “zone of safety” that forbids sex offenders from “loitering” within 500 feet of schools, child-care centers, playgrounds and parks. Senate Bill 1364 clarifies the definition of a “park” and stipulates that anyone “designated as a habitual or aggravated sex offender” would be prohibited from advancing closer than 500 feet to a park. The House sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Josh Cockroft, said the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department reported that 88 habitual or aggravated sex offenders, as well as 616 lesser sex offenders, were found “camping or obviously loitering” in nine state parks last year. During initial debate on the bill, no one in the House objected on philosophical grounds to locking sex offenders out of parks, but several wondered how the prohibition proposed in SB 1364 would be enforced. By voice vote Monday, the House rejected Biggs’ amendment.

Senate Bill 1505 authorizes agencies to offer employees to elect to be paid, one time annually, for a maximum of 200 hours of unused accrued annual leave. This could be beneficial for many state employees that have accrued more time than they will ever be able to use, without adding extra expense to the state.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at 405-557-7376 or 918-916-9004. You can also e-mail me at Donnie.condit@okhouse.gov.  Thank you and God Bless America!

Donnie Condit, D-McAlester, is Oklahoma’s District 18 state representative.

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