Last week marked the deadline for Senate bills to be heard on the House floor and vice versa. Nearly every bill that wasn’t heard in the opposite chamber by this point is ineligible until next session. There is an exception, however, for bills authored by the Speaker of the House or the President Pro Tempore. Those bills, as well as revenue-related legislation, can be brought forward at any point.
Deadline day came and went Thursday, and the Oklahoma Senate chose not to hear the House’s teacher pay raise proposal. House Bill 1114 would’ve given teachers a $6,000 raise over three years. The first year’s raise would cost the state roughly $52 million, and House Republicans have said since the beginning of session that we are committed to funding this raise. The Senate, however, stalled the bill.
I’m disappointed the opposite chamber chose to play politics with legislation that would directly benefit the standard of living for so many Oklahomans. The decision to not hear this bill does not impact state representatives; it impacts teachers – arguably the state’s most dedicated workforce. The House stood by its word when we said a teacher pay raise was a priority. We did our part, and I’m stunned the Senate stalled our efforts to give teachers the compensation they deserve. With this legislation, our teacher pay would’ve been ranked 27th in the nation with data from the National Education Association. Without it, we will continue to be ranked 48th.
The Senate did vote unanimously to pass my bill last week though, and it now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk. House Bill 2209 tasks the Oklahoma Tax Commission with preparing an incidence impact analysis on any bill or proposal to change the tax system which increases, decreases or redistributes taxes by more than $20 million. This is an excellent transparency measure, and I fully expect citizens to benefit from this in years to come.
As always, budget negotiations continue at the Capitol, but now there is a real intensity to them I haven't seen before. We’re entering the final month of session, and the partisanship and political games are really starting to rear their heads. It is easy to get swept up in rhetoric, but I’m trying to remain logical, clear-minded and focused as we vote on bills to help balance the state budget.
It goes without saying that everyone has a dog in this fight. The Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Republicans and House Democrats all have lists of things they would like to do. However, our job, as elected officials, is to put Oklahomans first. I pray and hope we don’t lose sight of that as we enter these final few frenetic weeks.
I’m always available and eager to hear from you as legislation moves through the process. You can reach me atMarcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or (405)557-7327. Thank you, and God bless.