(Rep. Ed Cannady is the State Representative from District 15. This is his first journal entry of the 2nd Legislative Session of the 53rd Legislature)
By Rep. ED CANNADY
We began this Session with Governor Fallen presenting her “State of the State” in a Joint House and Senate Session. First I was pleased that she was committed to request supplemental funding for the school districts’ teachers’ health insurance premiums that had been diverted by State Superintendent Barresi’s actions last year which shorted them by two months worth of Flex Benefit Allowance in the 2011/12 budget totaling $37.6 million.
The proposal that the Governor is making will correct this misuse of state funds by our State Superintendent.
Secondly, I was shocked, as were most of the other legislators in the Chambers when Governor Fallin stated that she would request funds to go to the Attorney General’s office for that office to be involved in a Stream Adjudication suit directed against the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. The Governor asked legislators to approve a $5 million funding increase for the Attorney General’s office to fight the Tribes’ lawsuit in the event that federal court ordered mediation fails.
What is curious here is that the State, through the Oklahoma Water Resource Board, seemingly stepped outside the already ongoing mediation process when the OWRB delegated to its attorneys the discretion to determine whether to file a stream adjudication—a suit to determine water rights—in Southeastern Oklahoma.
This move had nothing to do with mediation and was more an attempt to pull a federal lawsuit into state court, all at the expense of Oklahomans. Furthermore, the state then claimed this move, which is little more than a welfare plan for lawyers, was an attempt to protect Oklahomans from the Tribes.
Perhaps she felt comfortable making this move during the State of the State speech with the two Nations in question not present.
Perhaps a quote from a letter dated Feb. 7, 2012 to Governor Fallin from the leaders of the two Nations mentioned would be helpful. “A general stream adjudication is not required as a result of our court action. Our filing does not disrupt existing uses of water made pursuant to valid state permits. In order to reassure all Oklahomans of our intent, and to underscore our commitment to good faith negotiations, we filed an amended document……to clear up any misunderstanding that might still remain. This should leave no doubt that the filing of a stream adjudication is not a necessity, but a choice of the state.”
Our first Common Education Committee heard two bills and there was one that I would like to express my appreciation for since it is a start to correcting a bad bill requiring that each school site be given a letter grade that could potentially impact funding.
HB 2494, which passed out of Committee unanimously, allows the high school’s grade to be impacted by testing done at Career Tech Centers. Specifically, it will include the WorkKey Assessments that their students take as an alternative to the Algebra I EOI. In addition it allows scores from college equivalent credits and exams given at various sites other than the site being graded. This “school grade” bill will take more modifications before it is a true measurement of a school site’s effectiveness at educating their students. However this is a start.
We had several bills in the Public Safety Committee. One that I co-authored and was passed on a 10 to 6 vote is HB 2583 which would make it a statutory mandate that all passengers in a motor vehicle operated in the state shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety seat belt system. Another bill heard that is very controversial is HB 2572 which makes the owner of a mobile home park renting or leasing ten or more mobile or manufactured homes shall make sure that the anchoring of the homes meets the standards of the manufacturer’s manual.
This bill created considerable controversy and was laid over until next week’s Committee meeting. Feel free to contact me on this issue which seems to convert private property to real estate property.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at [email protected] , home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7685 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com