Capitol Week In Review: Lawmakers On Reform, Hemp And Teacher Strike
OKLAHOMA CITY - Another busy week at the Capitol as lawmakers dealt with bills to reduce the prison population, discussed fields of hemp, and a looming teacher strike.
That possible teacher strike is what has most lawmakers talking right now. Teachers are demanding $3.3 billion dollars over three years or they say they’re walking.
“We do not want to shut down schools and leave our classrooms to come to the Capitol. But we will,” said Alicia Priest Oklahoma Education Association.
Teachers are demanding $10,000 raises for themselves and $5,000 dollar raises for support staff, like custodians and bus drivers. They also want $200 million in school funding and raises for state workers.
Senator Mike Schulz (R) President Pro Tempore doubts they can even get the $10,000 teacher raises passed. “That would be about $600 million in additional revenue. We’ve seen the struggles in the house to see anything to raise $300 to $400 million.”
Muslim Day at the Capitol found fewer protesters than in past years, and the State House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to allow a study into growing hemp in Oklahoma.
“Hemp can be used thousands of different products from rope and textile to plastics and bio fuels,” said Representative Mickey Dollens (D) Oklahoma City. “What the hemp can’t do is get you high.”
The House also passed bills outlawing crossbows for kids, but expanding the stand your ground law to churches, prompting debate over whether someone can shoot someone in church for speaking in tongues.
“And someone came running up to you speaking hard in tongues and you thought that they were mentally deranged, don’t you feel that we could have some bad outcomes from something like that?” asked Representative Brian Renegar (D) Canadian who also questioned the need for such a law.
“So, let’s talk about need,” Representative Greg Babinec (R) Cushing replied. “Did Rosa Parks have a need to ride in the front of the bus?”
The governor announced an agreement on criminal justice reform with state district attorneys, but couldn’t provide details of what it would cost or how many inmates it would impact.
Critics slammed the deal’s lack of transparency.
“We should be very suspect of anything that comes out of this so-called agreement,” said Ryan Kiesel with the ACLU.
Lawmakers are expected to take up those criminal justice reform bills and discuss plans for teacher raises next week.