“Senate members have requested studies into some of Oklahoma’s most critical issues,” said Bingman. “I appreciate their focus and willingness to tackle such big issues in preparation for another great session in 2012.”
Three local Stephens County legislators will be conducting studies on a variety of issues.
Senator Anthony Sykes, (R-Moore) will be conducting three interim studies before the next legislative session. One will be a study on the growing problem of juvenile ‘sexting’ in Oklahoma. The study will review current law, ramifications of conviction under current law, how often the situation is presented to law enforcement, issues law enforcement may have with such occurrences, and how law enforcement addresses the situation.
According to a 2008 report by he National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (NCPTUP) http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/, 20% of teenagers ages 13–19 have “electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves" This is a growing problem among youth that has resulted in teen suicide and bullying.
Some states are considering legislation that would give judges the discretion to divert teen ‘sexting’ to an ‘educational reform program’ and prevent them from having to register as sex offenders.
Sykes will also conduct a study on the need for the Oklahoma National Guard to acquire real estate, construct new facilities, and remodel legacy facilities and how to fund those needs.
Sykes will also chair a study on Senior Nutrition sites and their funding. Oklahoma gets about $1.5 million annually through the federal government’s Older Americans Act nutrition program. How that money is allocated and used is important.
Representative Dennis Johnson, (R-Duncan) will conduct a study on the age of children entering kindergarten. Johnson authored legislation this year that would have required children to reach the age of 5 before July 1st to enter kindergarten. It failed to gain passage. He ran the bill at the request of a teacher’s organization who conducted a comprehensive survey of kindergarten teachers across the state. The results revealed the vast majority of the teachers surveyed favored moving the age requirement up by four months. They believe it will help the child long term academically and emotionally. Johnson plans to run the legislation again in the 2012 session if the interim study reveals similar findings.
Representative Corey Holland, (R-Marlow) and Representative Jason Murphy, (R-Guthrie) will review the statutory exemptions granted to Oklahoma’s Higher Education entities. The “statutory exemption” is designed to exempt from disclosure information that is required of other governmental agencies. In other words, to keep the public out of the loop on what is being done with taxpayer dollars.
Holland has been vocal about higher education and the need for it to be more accountable to Oklahoma taxpayers. In a Duncan Banner article on June 2nd, Holland said, “Essentially, all the other state agencies, when they incur cuts, they make cuts. They live in the reality of the economic climate. Colleges and universities, though, when they face a budget cut, they raise the prices for tuition. They pass it on to the students. There needs to be a lot more accountability on higher ed.”
One interim study being conducted by House Majority Leader Dale DeWitt, (R-Braman) could result in less elected officials. DeWitt wants to look into redrawing the boundaries of Oklahoma’s judicial districts (DA/Judges), which he says has not been done in twenty five years. During that same time, Oklahoma has lost a Congressional district. DeWitt says Oklahoma law requires that judicial districts be reapportioned as congressional districts change.
Legislative interim studies are important because they allow lawmakers to conduct in-depth studies on an issue. It allows them to solicit opinions and counsel from their constituents and the public at large. That results in better laws and avoids the ‘unintended consequences’ that often happens with legislation crafted during session.
If you have insight into one of the issues mentioned above, contact your legislator. They will appreciate your interest and it will help make for better government. Proverbs 11:14 says, “ For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.”