Week seven goes slow so far at the Capitol – a well-needed break after last week’s third-reading deadline, when all bills had to be heard in their chamber of origin to stay alive this legislative session. We stayed many nights late last week – not adjourning until 10:15 p.m. Wednesday.
I believe the House spoke volumes on our support of public education this year. Some of the bills we sent to the Senate include:
• House Bill 1780 would give Oklahoma public school teachers a $1,200 pay raise.
• House Bill 2470 would substantially increase the “in lieu of” amount we pay teachers that opt out of receiving the flexible benefit allowance for health care if they are otherwise covered.
• House Bill 1781 would allow school districts the flexibility to pay student teachers.
• House Bill 1360 would allow National Board Certified Teachers to apply for a $1,000 grant toward certificate renewal.
• House Bill 2521 creates the Oklahoma Educator Loan Repayment Program that will assist classroom teachers with student loan forgiveness.
• House Bill 2502 provides a $1,000 tax credit for teachers that purchase supplies for their classrooms or will help toward certificate renewal.
• House Bill 1246 allows retired teachers to return to the classroom at a much higher salary than currently allowed.
• House Bill 2645 creates a one-time incentive bonus for certified teachers who return to public school classrooms.
We are focusing on both teacher pay and classroom funding this session.
Unfortunately, my House Bill 1149, which would repeal the closing of the Talihina Veterans Center did not get a hearing on the House floor. I just couldn’t garner enough support. When I started this process, I knew it was an uphill battle trying to repeal actions of the previous Legislature.
I was successful in getting House Bill 1150 passed through the House. This bill, if carried through the Senate, will allow conservation districts to purchase electric hog traps. House Bill 2528 was delayed due to an untimely filed amendment. This bill was a request from the city of Savanna. It will be laid over until the next session.
Lastly, this week is Oklahoma Youth Expo week, one of my personal favorites. This is where legislators get to show an animal in the “Showmanship” contest. I will be showing a heifer owned by Lacey McAlister, a member of the Wilburton High School FFA. My plan is to win, but oftentimes the best-made plans go by the wayside.
Next week, we start on hearing the Senate bills that are coming to the House. So, the process starts again.
Lastly, I will be holding a Town Hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday evening at the Choctaw Nation Community Center in Talihina to update my constituents on what has happened so far this session.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve in this capacity. I can be reached at Jim.Grego@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7381.