Last week marked what is called the “House of Origin” deadline for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. This means that nearly every bill not heard on the House floor before March 23 will not continue in the legislative process this session. The same goes for Senate bills being heard in that chamber.
We had some long nights last week as we considered and debated more than 130 bills over the course of three days. It was our intention to do as much as we could to advance worthy bills over to the Senate, and we stayed late in the evenings to make sure that happened.
We heard bills that furthered Oklahoma’s dedication to criminal justice reform. We passed legislation aimed at strengthening our state’s DUI laws by increasing penalties for certain offenders. We voted unanimously to send the Senate a bill that lessens surprise medical bills after someone visits a hospital or care center and unknowingly sees an out-of-network provider. These are all things that make Oklahoma a better place to raise a family and own a business.
After we briefly met on the House floor on Thursday, we moved straight into budget briefings with our specific committees. These mid-session hearings are new this year, and they gave every representative a chance to hear from agencies on their expenditures and cost of operations. These meetings were important; they provided me with a better understanding of what it takes to operate a state agency. I am confident I will be able to make more informed decisions on budget issues because of these hearings.
Now that all the House bills have moved to the Senate and vice versa, we’ll begin evaluating Senate bills during committee meetings. I have a handful of bills that I have coauthored, and I’ll shepherd them through the committee process and floor hearings just like I did my own bills.
From here on out, the House will be primarily focused on filling that $878 million shortfall in next fiscal year’s budget. We have always been devoted to the budget and work has been done on the budget this entire time, but now it will be even more central for everyone, and I suspect it will take up the majority of our time until the end of session in May.
Any revenue-raising measures will be heard in the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, or JCAB. Budget leaders from both the House and the Senate will meet to discuss budget issues starting in mid-to-late April. These are formal meetings that are open to the public. Bills that make it through JCAB will then be heard and voted on in both chambers.
We’re halfway through session, but there’s still much work to be done. As always, I encourage you to reach out if you feel strongly about any piece of legislation. Email me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or call my office at (405) 557-7327. Thanks and God bless.
My first bill cleared a major hurdle in passing the House of Representatives, and I could not be prouder of the measure itself. I believe deeply in letting Oklahomans know about the implications of tax changes, and this bill does just that.
House Bill 2209 is a tax transparency bill that directs the Oklahoma Tax Commission to produce a tax incidence report for any proposed legislation attempting to increase, decrease or redistribute taxes by more than $20 million.
The goal of the tax incidence report is to inform the citizens of Oklahoma how a tax change will affect them annually in real dollars according to their income brackets. It will also inform them of the overall change to the state budget. Citizens will be able to conduct their own cost/benefit analysis of tax changing measures.
I talk to people daily who believe tax changes are not transparent. They do not know how much a cut or an increase will affect their household budgets, and they don't know how a cut or increase will affect the state's budget.
Often, tax changes are complicated by actors seeking to influence public opinion. There can be a lot of hype, and people can tap into emotion to elicit a response. But the type of tax incidence report prescribed by HB 2209 offers hard facts and informs the people in a concrete and transparent way. A report like this will allow Oklahomans to cut through the rhetoric, hysteria and misinformation that follows a tax changing proposal.
It is my hope the people will take in this information provided in this report and use it to inform their legislators how they want them to vote on tax change measures.
I am thrilled by the support HB 2209 received from both sides of the aisle in the House. It was a unanimous vote of 84- 0, which clearly shows that the members recognize the bill is not only common-sense and transparent policy, but it’s also good for Oklahomans. The members of the House voted for greater government transparency when they voted for this bill.
The bill now heads over to the Senate, where state Sen. AJ Griffin from Guthrie will take over as the Senate author, or sponsor, of the bill. HB 2209 will then be assigned to a Senate committee, and a small group of senators will weigh the merits of the legislation. Once it receives a “do pass” vote from the assigned committee, the legislation will receive a hearing in front of the entire Senate chamber. I’m hopeful senators will see the same value in the bill that our state representatives did. If they vote to pass the bill, it will then go to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk for her signature. Once she signs the bill, it will become Oklahoma law.
As always, this office belongs to everyone in House District 50. Don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling (405) 557-7327 or emailing me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov to share your thoughts or concerns about policy issues. Thank you, and God bless.
When I was campaigning last year, one of the biggest issues I heard echoed over and over again was a concern for the state of Oklahoma’s education system. It inspired me to run for office and represent House District 50 to ensure my constituents’ voices were being heard. And I was able to vote on two important bills this past week regarding education.
The one which had received the most press is House Bill 1114, which is the House’s teacher pay raise bill. It passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 92 to 7. We call this the 1-2-3 plan because it gradually implements a $6,000 raise over the course of three years. Teachers would see a $1,000 increase the first year, $2,000 the second, and $3,000 the third year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a responsible approach to giving teachers the raise they so desperately deserve. The first year will cost the state roughly $53 million, which is absolutely doable, even in our fiscal situation. Right now, the bill lacks a funding mechanism, but I have full faith that we’ll find a way to pay for the raise before the end of session.
We also passed HB 1693, which puts into place the framework and components for a new A-F School Grading System that brings Oklahoma into compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. This is an important step to fixing the flaws that were in the original A-F formula. School accountability is important; we just want to be sure we give schools the proper instrument. Both HB 1693 and the teacher pay bill now move over to the Senate for consideration.
I’m looking forward to hearing HB 1760 on the floor. The bill removes the sunset for the probationary promotion under the Reading Sufficiency Act. Basically, this legislation allows parents to continue to be involved in the third grade reading test and to have a say in whether a third grader moves onto fourth grade or is retained. It passed out of committee last month, and I think this is a great thing for parents in our state.
Lastly, an education savings account bill was pulled from consideration early this month, and that appears to be the last ESA bill for the session. I’m grateful the senator who pulled his bill decided to do so. Vouchers make no sense for rural school districts, and furthermore, they take money from the funding formula. I was prepared to vote “no” on the bill, but I’m even happier I won’t see it come across my desk in the first place.
There are dozens of education bills making their way through the legislative process, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. Please call my office at (405) 557-7327 or email me at Marcus.McEnitre@okhouse.gov to let me know what you’re thinking. Thank you, and God bless.
I spend more than half of my week at 23rd and Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City, and whenever I make it home, lots of folks always ask me what it’s like to be a state representative.
In short, it is intense work. Things move at a frenetic pace at the Capitol. There are an unbelievable number of phone calls, emails, meetings, receptions and dinners. When I’m not researching bills and voting on legislation, I’m often hosting guests in my office, talking to constituents or discussing proposed bills and amendments with colleagues. The workload makes the days fly by and I’m often just as busy after I walk out of the Capitol doors in the evenings.
In fact, some of the most important groundwork for my role as a lawmaker comes after traditional work hours. Much of the success as a representative depends on the relationships one has with his colleagues, so it’s been important to me to meet up with my fellow representatives outside of our offices. Those relationships really matter when votes on important bills come up or issues dealing with our district arise, and I will take any help I can get when it comes to making House District 50 better.
The work you elected me to do is very gratifying. I’ve made many friends throughout this process, but far and away, the best part of my week comes when I get to drive back home. Being away from my family is hard, but I signed up for this, and my family is fully supportive. My weeks can be stressful, but I’m always rejuvenated after spending time with those I love most. I cannot thank my wife and kids enough for being my biggest cheerleaders throughout this process. I could not do it without them.
At the end of the day, the most gratifying part of my job is helping you, my constituents. People call my office weekly about problems or concerns they have with our government, and I’m humbled and honored to help navigate the complicated maze that is this bureaucracy. If you have an issue you think I should know about, call my office at (405) 557- 7327 or email me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov.