By Sen. JOSEPH SILK
The past couple weeks we have been taking the House bills and assigning them to Senate committees so we can continue hearing bills in the opposite legislative house of origin. I am the Senate author of four bills that came over from the House, and in the next few weeks I will share details regarding those bills. Next week, I also plan to roll out some crucial budget changes aimed at addressing Oklahoma’s financial crisis. Today I want to inform you of two pieces of legislation that have caused a bit of debate the last few weeks.
For the sake of our children, Oklahoma must take steps to make meaningful, positive change in education. While the new education standards that have been approved are mostly good standards, some needed a few improvements according to an in-depth report from the South Central Comprehensive Center at the University of Oklahoma.
The Legislature attempted to improve select components of these standards, asking that minor improvements be made to set solid standards for Oklahoma. However, that attempt was blocked, so the standards will take effect next year without any improvements.
At least two of the subject matter experts who were involved in this process expressed concerns that without the recommended improvements to the standards, this process was simply a roundabout way to rebrand Common Core under another name. As many of you remember, Oklahoma was on the front lines a few years ago in refusing the Common Core standards which would have been detrimental to Oklahoma education.
As I have said many times, I believe the Legislature is too involved in education issues and we need to allow our local schools and teachers to teach with as little government interference as possible.
However, our system was set up so legislators can act on behalf of the people when the State Department of Education implements programs or standards at the local school level that the locals don’t agree with or may believe will lead to burdensome directives.
Unfortunately, we were unable to improve the standards which would have provided further support for our local teachers. As with other aspects of education, we will continue to be a voice for our local schools and keep working towards solutions so we can improve Oklahoma’s public education system.
Senate Bill 1142, which passed in the Senate by a vote of 27-18 earlier this month, proposes good changes to private property rights. Currently, game wardens and officials from the Oklahoma Wildlife Department can be present on private property without permission if they only hear a shot and think there might be illegal hunting taking place.
The language in SB 1142 adds that “a game warden shall not enter a private property for the purposes of enforcing wildlife conservation code, based solely on the discharge of a firearm”.
As an avid hunter, I have a great deal of respect for game wardens and know they are protecting wildlife. However, we must be careful when it comes to how much authority we allow law enforcement officials to possess while on private property.
Nothing in this bill would prohibit a game warden from doing their job and protecting wildlife, as they still would have access to private land with the land owner’s permission, or if they have other probable cause such as seeing spotlights, seeing trucks at a gate, or getting a tip about illegal hunting.
Although the Department of Wildlife was against SB 1142, I have spoken with many people and the vast majority is in favor of this legislation. I have also spoken to several game wardens about this issue, and while some disagree with it, they all understand the debate.
As always, if there is ever anyway I can assist anyone or if there is anything you would like to discuss more in depth don’t hesitate to contact mea at 405-521-5614 or by email at [email protected].
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