Monday, March 17, 2014


Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     Thursday March 13th was the deadline for bills and Joint Resolutions to be out of their respective chambers and sent to the other chamber in the Oklahoma legislature.  Here are some of the notable bills that were passed by the legislature:

     House Bill 2508, authored by Rep. Earl Sears, (R-Bartlesville) proposes to cut the personal income-tax rate in Oklahoma from 5.25 to 5 percent beginning in 2016.  This is the same tax cut proposal that was struck down by the Supreme Court because last year’s version supposedly violated the ‘single subject’ rule in the state constitution.  It’s certain Sears’ bill will sail through the Senate and be signed into law. 

     House Bill 2630, authored by Rep. Randy McDaniel, (R-OKC) creates a defined-contribution system for new employees who are part of the Oklahoma Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS).  If signed into law, the system will phase out the state’s ‘defined benefit,’ plans.  This is a good start to fixing the pension crisis in Oklahoma; however this change fails to address the ‘unfunded’ 11 billion dollar deficit in the pension systems.  Pension reform is the number one issue lawmakers face this year. 

     House Bill 3293, authored by Rep. Leslie Osborn, (R-Mustang), would boost state employee salaries to 90 percent of private-sector pay over a four-year period.  The reasoning behind Osborne’s bill is Oklahoma state government is losing employees to the private sector because the state is not competitive in salary.  Oklahoma ranks dead last in the US in what we pay our state employees, but Oklahoma also has more state employees per capita than most states.  What should happen is a reduction in the number of state employees and better pay to those who survive the pruning. 

     House Joint Resolution 1092, by state Reps. Jon Echols, (R-Moore) and Mark McBride, (R- Moore) authorizes local school districts to submit questions to a vote of the people to approve issuing of bonds for the construction or improvement of school safety facilities such as safe rooms or underground storm shelters.  This is a much better solution than floating a statewide bond issue to provide storm shelters for every school in the state.  It gives each local school district the option to handle this locally.     
     Speaker Jeff Hickman, (R-Fairview), authored House Joint Resolution 1033.  The JR asks the people of Oklahoma to approve a $120 million bond to repair and renovate the Capitol building.  There is absolutely no reason to borrow money to fix the Capitol. Currently over $750 million dollars is sitting in Oklahoma state agencies’ ‘reserve accounts.’ If every agency would give back just 20% of their reserve money, no bond would be necessary.   Why is tapping the reserve funds to fix the Capitol not being discussed?  Call your legislator and ask them to use money we already have to fix the people’s house.    

     House Bill 3399, also authored by Hickman, places control over common education standards solely in the hands of Oklahomans. It basically says Oklahoma would opt out of Common Core for a period of two years.  This bill passed the House with a 78-12 margin and now heads to the Senate. 

     The Senate version of HB 3399 is SB 1734, authored by Senators Josh Brecheen, (R-Coalgate) and Anthony Sykes (R-Moore).  SB #1734 would (1) Order the State Board of Education to remove alignment with the K-12 Common Core State Standards, (2) Prohibit Oklahoma from entering into any agreement with any federal agency to establish academic content standards in the public school system, and (3) Establish the Local Curriculum Standards Pilot Program in Oklahoma.  The word is the Senate Education Committee Chairman Ford has stated HB 3399 will receive a hearing in the committee and a Senate floor vote if passed by the committee. 

     “It’s time that Oklahoma’s legislators respond to their constituents and address Common Core’s aim at our children,” said Sykes, R-Moore. “Let's answer the call by Oklahomans and well-studied conservatives across the nation who correctly point out that we have ceded state control to out-of-state interest groups.”  

     Sen. Kyle Loveless, (R-OKC), authored Senate Bill 1651, which would allow $40 million dollars to be taken out of the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund to complete the American Indian Cultural Center Museum.  The AICCM has been a money pit for Oklahoma taxpayers from the beginning.  The museum should solicit private donations and complete without taxpayer funding- period.

     These eight bills and many more now head to the other chamber to be considered.  You can AND SHOULD track their progress through the legislature at
     Remember, conservative Democrats who want to vote in the GOP Senate primary on June 24th must change Party affiliation by March 31st.

1 comment:

Otter Limits said...

You forgot HB 2134 which changes the number of signatures to form a new political party in Oklahoma from 5% to 2.5% of the total votes cast in the last General Elections.