Oklahoma Legislature Week In Review: Education, Taxes, Prisons, Constitutional Carry

Friday, February 8th 2019, 8:14 pm

The first week of the legislative session was a busy one with the governor and democratic lawmakers laying out their vision for the state. The governor's proposal included more funding for teacher raises, but fell short on classroom spending and criminal justice reform.

An excited Gov. Kevin Stitt presented his state of the state address before a joint session of the legislature. His budget plan includes a $1,200 raise for teachers, but no increase in classroom spending. Stitt says that will come later.  

“But we must first continue our investment in teachers. Because it’s not programs, curriculum or resources that students will remember. The magic happens between the students and the teachers in the classroom.” Stitt said.

Democrats insist, teachers would rather see more funding for the classroom than a bigger paycheck. 

“Teachers need to be valued and respected. This is not about a paycheck. And this is not about a salary,” said Sen. Kay Floyd (D) Minority Leader.

Democrats want to see another $100 million put into the classroom. They say they also want to lower taxes for working class Oklahomans and see a raise in the minimum wage.

“We have several pieces of legislation filed to restore the earned income tax credit, which will allow low and middle income families to keep more of their hard earned dollars.” said Rep. Emily Virgin (D) Minority Leader.

The Department of Corrections abandoned its request for more than $800 million for two new prisons, instead asking the state for an additional $19 million for employee raises. Corrections officers start at just $13.74 an hour.

“Our staffing for our north fork facility in Sayre is at 30 percent. We have 19 CO’s who are watching after 2,200 inmates. We must have more CO’s.” Department of Corrections Spokeswoman Jessica Brown said.

There is money in the governor’s budget for diversion programs, but not raises.

Lastly, a house committee passed a permitless carry bill, allowing Oklahomans over 21-years old and with no felonies to carry a gun without a license or training.

“Training is an individual responsibility. It’s not the government's job to mandate training to you. It should be your individual responsibility to make sure you get yourself trained,” said Travis Couture-Lovelady with the NRA.

That bill now goes to the house floor. No word on when the Senate will take it up. The governor has said he will sign it if it makes its way to his desk. 

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