It is less than a week before the second session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature convenes, and we hear from Governor Stitt about his proposals in the annual State of the State address.
The issues facing young people in our state and nation are often depressing. The adverse experiences which plague children – and then often repeat when those grown children have kids of their own – have created widespread problems affecting health, the economy, workforce, and life expectancy. These issues also have an overall impact with how well our rankings appear with other states.
I have mixed emotions and predictions about what we will see as far as improvements for Oklahoma, but I always lean toward optimism. I am even hopeful that this being an election year will not deter good ideas simply from party-line stubbornness.
Going through the ideas submitted for this legislative session, I see great potential to help improve the lives of Oklahoman. Several lawmakers filed legislation to restore refundability of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax cut championed by President Ronald Reagan encouraging people to go to work. State Capitol discussions and an impending vote by the people to attract more federal funding for working-class health care coverage will, without a doubt, create a vast improvement over what our state has faced over the past eight years.
The proposals which the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) have championed include a bill to create a savings account for state-certified early childcare assistance to help families struggling to meet the $8,000 to $10,000 annual cost for providing childcare for their youngest.
Multiple bills have been introduced to fix the seat belt law requiring children above the age of eight to be buckled in, which Oklahoma is the only state in the nation with an age that low. There are also plans to provide counseling to students acting out due to trauma, instead of punishing them with an arbitrary suspension, which are good. Conversely, there are bad ideas which would allow children in pre-school and Kindergarten to be removed for an entire semester.
These proposals and many more have bipartisan support. Still, whether they become law in large part will be determined by how much you, as grassroots advocates, engage with policymakers. OICA will be very busy traveling across the state this year, helping advocates develop stronger and more effective voices.
We plan to spend time speaking to partner organizations and training their membership to effectively communicate with lawmakers. These trainings hopefully will spark interest in watching votes, sharing ideas for solutions, and engaging other constituents with the best practices to remain in contact with senators and representatives.
We will hold our first training of 2020 Monday, February 3 in Oklahoma City. Our Women and Children First Advocacy Training, held the first day of session, includes a curriculum on how to communicate with policymakers; attendees will be able to interact directly with lawmakers just before the session begins. The day will conclude watching a live feed of Governor Stitt’s address followed by discussions on the speech and the session.
If you wish to learn more about how you can join us for this event go to www.oica.org and sign up for Women and Children First Advocacy Training. You also can contact us about setting up a training for your organization in your hometown. These all are great steps toward helping you and your community become stronger voices for improving Oklahoma!