By Rep. JAMES LOCKHART
This week marked the final days in which bills authored by House members could receive a hearing in hopes of their bills progressing to the full body of the chamber. Of the 962 bills and 26 joint resolutions filed this session, only 456 House bills survived the first hurdle of the legislative process and will receive further deliberation and debate.
The next legislative deadline looms as only 103 bills have received a hearing by the House chamber, and the remaining 353 bills on General Order must be heard and passed off the House floor by the March 15th deadline.
Governor Fallin and House and Senate leadership agreed this week to supplemental appropriations of $92.5 million which will come from the gross production tax revenue. It will provide $37.6 million to the state Department of Education to fund certified employee and support personnel health benefits, $14.8 million to fund this year the $5,000 stipends for teachers who attained National Board certification, $5 million to the Department of Public Safety to fund an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper academy, $1 million to the state Medical Examiner’s Office to pay for equipment and personnel and $34 million to the State Emergency Fund to cover expenses incurred after severe weather and fires.
House Bill 2643 passed out of committee. It sets requirements pertaining to billboards. I am adding an amendment to the bill that will prevent churches from being affected by the requirements of the bill. My church displays the Ten Commandments and there were several questions asked about whether or not churches would be affected by this legislation. I have received many calls from churches who have received letters from the Department of Transportation concerning their billboards this past year.
My bill, HB2326, was heard in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee on Wednesday. It passed without a dissenting vote. The bill helps small businesses in rural parts of the state. The bill would ensure that appropriate incentives are given to certain basic industries that hold the promise of significant development of the rural economy of the State of Oklahoma. In other words, the bill would attempt to bring jobs to where they are most needed, specifically in counties that have high unemployment.
My bill, HB2328, also passed unanimously out of committee this week. My goal is to make it more difficult for political favoritism to play a part in hiring and firing practices relating to state employees, and in the treatment of state employees. Many times individuals with political contacts have received transfers and promotions over others who had more experience and education. This is unacceptable people should be judged by the quality of their resume, not the quality of their political contacts.
A bill that will assist veterans seeking employment after serving in the armed forces passed unanimously out of Government Modernization committee this week. In an effort to assist veterans, HB1985 will offer the opportunity in interviews to demonstrate that they acquired “transferable skills” in the service. Often times, soldiers have difficulty explaining their training and skills in civilian speak, because the methodology of military training doesn’t always perfectly align with a university degree or trade school program. This bill seeks to assist in this endeavor so they can utilize their military training.
It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me to discuss any issues, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502. You can also email me at [email protected]. or find me on facebook. Thank you and God Bless America!