Capitol Week In Review: Highs & Lows

Friday, March 3rd 2017, 5:41 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

A week of highs and lows at the state capitol, with good news for travelers and bad news for teachers. 

Gov. Mary Fallin this week signed Real ID legislation. It makes the state compliant with federal requirements to increase driver’s license security. It also allows Oklahomans to fly commercially and enter federal buildings without a passport. 

Oklahomans can also opt out of getting their children vaccinated after Senator and cardiac anesthesiologist, Irvin Yen (R-Dist. 40) backed off on his bill for mandatory vaccines.

“Did everyone hear that?” Yen told the packed committee room. “It allows all current exemptions to vaccination.”

Opposition got downright ugly, with mailers comparing Yen to Hitler and Pol Pot.

“That is disgusting to me,” said Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Dist. 41), raising his voice. “Let the yahoos and knuckleheads and the ding-dongs in DC talk to each other like that.”

Republican Majority Whip Sen. Rob Standridge shelved his bill for school vouchers. 

“I don’t feel like I want to put you in a bind to pass this by a thin margin,” Standridge told committee members. 

Meanwhile, teachers heard from senate leadership, the chances of getting a raise this year are slim. 

“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult for us to find the dollars to fill the $876-million hole and do a teacher pay raise,” said President Pro Tempore, Ren. Mike Schulz.

The fiscal news goes from bad to worse. Oklahoma’s bond rating dropped because of a decrease in revenues. That means it’ll cost more to borrow money for projects like building more prisons. That’s OK with protestors, who are angry lawmakers are proposing changes to rules Oklahomans voted on last November, reducing some non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  

“Addiction and mental illness are better addressed by treatment and mental healthcare than punishment and we expect our legislature to follow through,” Speaker and TEEM Executive Director Kris Steele told protestors.

This week was also committee deadline week, so any bills that didn’t make it out of committee are DOA for the session.