This week marks the deadline for House bills to pass out of Senate committees on the Senate side. Because of the new rules that the House has adopted that deadline for the House will not occur for two more weeks.

The reasoning on the new rules is to place more emphasis on committee work rather than changing bills on the floor. Many times in the past bills would sail through committee with the explanation that “this is a work in progress.” The bill could change completely on the floor or in the process. The extended time period for the committee work allows more work on the bill to finish before it comes to the floor.

One of my House bills that was heard this week and passed in a Senate committee was a bill that will help every county in this district. This bill will help fund the School Land Ad Valorem Reimbursement Fund at or near 100%. In the past this reimbursement rate has been closer to 10%. This would mean an increase in county receipts in every county and especially in Cimarron County .

Another bill that I had that passed out of Senate Committee Education Committee was to add teacher abandonment of duty as part of the due process list in terminating teachers. This occurs when a teacher signs a contract in April, but takes a job in another state before school starts. This allows the school board to immediately declare the position vacant and hire another teacher.

However, several very important bills are not getting heard in a Senate Committee. Several of the Rural Economic Development bills are not getting heard. These bills were not bills that were thought up by politicians, but are the result of input by rural citizens throughout the state. These bills can help revitalize rural Oklahoma . For our state to grow it is imperative that these areas thrive.

Another bill that may not be heard in a Senate committee is lawsuit reform. There are some trial lawyers who try to argue that this is not needed. A recent editorial in the Daily Oklahoma revealed that we are the 34th worst state in the nation in terms of lawsuit climate. Even worse, we are continuing to slip while surrounding states are becoming more conducive to attracting business.

Those that argue the supremacy of the jury system, ignore the basic framework of the constitution. The legislature is empowered to set boundaries for any number of laws for juries. The Corrections and Criminal Justice Committee that I chair passes bills that set limits on punishments on any number of crimes. The jury can then make decisions based on the parameters established by the legislature.

 

In fact, another set of bills that are not being heard in the Senate deals with child sex offenders. There were five bills that passed out of the House that passed more severe punishments for this crime. As of today, however, none received a hearing in a Senate committee. There are a couple of bills that I still have in my committee dealing with this subject that will not be heard yet in case they need to be amended to cover all the topics not heard by the Senate. Hopefully, the Senate will pass these important bills and not continue to simply obstruct the process.

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