Spring Break Doesn’t Slow Down Lawmaking

OKLAHOMA CITY – This week is designated the “Spring Break” week for lawmakers as they will be working a lighter-than-normal schedule, allowing lawmakers with children to enjoy family time after a month of policymaking.

Several bills the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is tracking could come up this week or next. Some of the remaining pieces of legislation that would benefit Oklahoma families still are awaiting a floor vote.  We encourage the leadership of the Senate and House to schedule these for consideration and pass them through the process. We encourage you to reach out to your lawmakers to ask them for support of the measures below.

Speaking of breaks, Sen. Jessica Garvin filed Senate Bill 193, which would provide six weeks of paid leave for state employees following the birth or adoption of a child.  As the lawmakers are essentially the board of directors for the state, with Governor Stitt as the CEO for state employees, we encourage passage of the measure, along with the encouragement that private employers consider the same following the birth or adoption of a child. However, private businesses are not impacted by this bill.

We have already mentioned in a previous column the legislation creating the Family Representation and Advocacy Act, filed as companion bills numbered Senate Bill 907 by Sen. Paul Rosino and House Bill 1017 by Rep. Mark Lawson.  These would establish a system to provide legal assistance for families working to keep their children during court hearings.  This has been a national effort to provide this help in underserved rural areas and has been highly successful.

Rep. John Talley filed House Bill 1028, which would restrict school districts from implementing physical punishment on students who have been diagnosed with specific types of disabilities.  The bill would also not ban other forms of disciplinary measures, just striking these students.

A carryover idea from last year, House Bill 2102 by Rep. Forrest Bennett, would prohibit commercial driving schools from allowing a student driver to operate a motor vehicle with another student as a passenger unless the parents or guardians sign a waiver.  This follows the tragic death of a young Oklahoman in an accident while in the back seat during a driving lesson.

Rep. Ajay Pittman has submitted House Bill 2513, which would implement “Handle with Care” for schools statewide.  This program establishes that law enforcement officers and agencies notify school administrators when a child has undergone a traumatic event the previous day which could inhibit their academic performance or create emotional instability.

With the severe number of Adverse Childhood Experiences – or ACEs – faced by young people, this bill would help ensure students are not punished because their parents were arrested the night before or some other such circumstance.

These are just a few of the 175 remaining bills which OICA is tracking.  Please go to our website to review more about these measures so that you can be an even more effective advocate, and please contact your senators and representatives and ask them for their support when the bills come up.

Finally, don’t miss OICA’s Chili Cook-off and Advocacy Day next Tuesday, March 21 in the south parking lot at the State Capitol. It will be a great opportunity to sample chili from some of the state’s finest chili cookers. And, if you want to see how your recipe stacks up, it’s not late to enter. If you’d like to enter, or just want more information, go to https://tinyurl.com/OICAChili. We hope to see you there!