We just wrapped up the 11th week of the legislative session. The Senate had 226 House bills on General Order after last week’s committee deadline, and 67 House bills have passed off the Senate floor so far. April 25 is the deadline for House bills to make it off the Senate floor. As of this week, 35 bills have been signed by Gov. Stitt.
Budget negotiations are on track and moving forward, with agreement on many points between the Senate, House and Governor’s budget leaders. Education remains a priority and will see continued investment. Classroom dollars and teacher pay are not mutually exclusive and they don’t necessarily have to be tied together. It’s also a priority for Senate Republicans to invest in criminal justice reforms and diversion programming.
House Bill 2304, also known as the COLA bill, has been sent by the Senate Retirement committee for an actuarial analysis in accordance with pension reform laws. This means the bill is still alive, and once the analysis is complete, it could be considered again next February.
There has been a lot of political hype, with some saying Republicans are standing in the way of a COLA for state retirees, but the truth is, Republican reforms have actually saved the state pension systems in recent years. For decades prior to Republicans leading the legislature, Democrats consistently raided state pension funds to balance the budget or pay for political pet projects, and leaving our state pension system in peril and at the bottom of the rankings in state systems nationwide. Republicans ended that practice and have invested more than $3.4 billion since 2011 above and beyond the normal employer contribution to fix the mistakes made by Democrats. By following the pension reform laws, we are protecting the retirement of current and future state retirees by ensuring the long-term solvency of the pension systems.
Also this week, the Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1003, which provides a sales tax exemption for sales of tangible personal property to the American Legion. Other veterans and veteran-related organizations have tax emptions and the American Legion deserves the same tax break. There are 180 American legion posts statewide and an auxiliary with 143 units. Their services include benefits assistance, career fairs and workshops, guidance on education, health care, and personal finance.
The Senate also this week confirmed two members of the governor’s economic team. Sean Kouplen was confirmed as Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development, and Brent Kisling as director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. The Senate is continuing to work through Governor Stitt’s executive nominations per the new confirmation process and will not adjourn until all nominations are considered.
On a closing note, my family and I would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter. As we celebrate Easter, may we also remember the ultimate sacrifice of Christ as He died on the cross to save us all. His death and sacrifice gives each one of us the opportunity for eternal salvation.
If you have any questions about state government or concerns about legislation, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing to me at Senator Marty Quinn, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 419, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.