The final stretch

The Oklahoma Senate this week reached the deadline for approval of House measures by the full Senate.  The first three months of the legislative session are now behind us.  For the second consecutive week, we were able to adjourn on Wednesday.  Senate leadership is determined to lead by example in operating efficiently, finding savings for Oklahoma taxpayers wherever possible.  

The state House this week approved my Equal Opportunity Education
Scholarship Act, marking a victory for school choice in Oklahoma.  The
bill will expand educational opportunities for needy children through a
new scholarship tax credit program.  The proposal will allow a tax
credit equal to 50 percent of the amount contributed to a
scholarship-granting organization up to $1,000 per person, $2,000 per
couple or up to $100,000 per business entity.  The total credit
authorized could not exceed $1.75 million annually. 

Scholarships funded through the tax credit program would serve children from low-income families and allow them to attend private schools. The privately funded scholarships would pay up to $5,000 or 80 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure in the school district where the recipient student resides. Scholarships for special needs students under the bill would cover up to $25,000.  Overall, the bill provides for a maximum $5 million in annual credits allowed – $3.5 million would go to individual scholarships, while the remaining $1.5 million would fund grants to help rural schools in areas where private school is not an option.  This is legislation that will make a difference in the lives of children who deserve better educational opportunities.

In an important step toward a more modern and efficient state government, the Senate this week approved legislation that will consolidate administrative processes and help to eliminate duplication of services.  House Bill 2140 is a vital part of our efforts to produce a balanced budget.  Further, it is a part of our mission to right-size state government, finding areas that can be consolidated if necessary.  I was honored to be able to carry this measure on the Senate floor, and argue in favor of legislation that reaffirms the important of being prudent with every public dollar.  

We also approved legislation to protect pregnant patients and promote life.  House Bill 1970 will regulate the use of abortion-inducing drugs by Oklahoma physicians.  The bill will require doctors to administer abortion inducing drugs in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.  If we cannot ban the use of such things, it is important that we ensure they are subject to appropriate regulation under the law.  Of the eight reported deaths associated with abortion-inducing drugs in the United States, seven were the result of doctors administering the drug outside the approved FDA guidelines.  

Americans United for Life (AUL), a leading pro-life advocacy group, praised the Senate’s passage of the measure.  Daniel McConchie, Vice President of Government Affairs for AUL, said approval of the measure was an important priority for his organization.  "With this overwhelming vote to regulate dangerous abortion-inducing drugs, Oklahoma continues its leadership role in defending human life and protecting women’s health," he said.

The Governor this week signed one measure I authored.  Senate Bill 816 disallows public highways from being built on land with already proposed construction plans.

Still ahead of us are many major issues, including the finalization of budget plans and redistricting.  A number of important bills are still working their way through the legislative process.