State Lawmakers Shift Focus To School Funding And Medical Marijuana

Monday, March 4th 2019, 7:26 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

In the past month, the state legislature has tackled bills on abortion, guns and criminal justice reform. This month, the focus will be on school funding and medical marijuana.   

The end of February also meant the first deadline to get bills passed out of committee. Out of nearly 2800 bills, only about 920 survived.

Tuesday, the Senate Rules Committee is expected to take up the so-called “Unity Bill”; a short list of rules regulating the medical marijuana industry.

Read Related Story: ‘Unity Bill’ Regulating Medical Marijuana Passes In State House Of Representatives

“We’re waiting on the bill to come over here officially from the house. Once that does we’ll get it scheduled,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore.

The Unity Bill sets up testing and labeling standards, so medical marijuana is the potency it is supposed to be and free of dangerous chemicals. It also sets up the legislative guidelines the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority must follow.

“What it doesn’t do is in any way halt the medical marijuana industry in the state of Oklahoma and it stays true to State Question 788,” said Representative Jon Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader.

State lawmakers will also have a strong focus on education funding this month.  The Oklahoma Education Association is not ruling out another walkout if they don’t get another $400 million by April 1, including a $3,000 raise for classroom teachers and another $150 million for classroom spending.

See Also: 2nd Walkout? OES Sets Day Of Advocacy, Funding Deadline

Lawmakers are considering a $1,200 raise, and some increase in classroom spending.

“We gotta make sure it all balances. So, teacher pay obviously is a big component of education funding, but we also want to see some money in the classroom. We haven’t agreed to any number yet,” said Treat.

Echols added, “I think the House and the Senate want to increase education funding, and I think we will do that in the final budget that we pass.”

House leaders say they have talked with the teachers union, but so far, Senate leadership says there has been no contact.

Even though lawmakers had agreed to an average $6,100 annual raise for teachers last year, they still walked off the job and converged on the Capitol. More than a half million students were impacted by the walkout.