HThursday was a major legislative deadline for the House and Senate. It was our Third Reading deadline, the day that bills had to be heard and voted on in the chamber they originated in. Bills that weren’t voted on by Thursday at midnight are now dead for this legislative session. We spent hours on the House floor this week considering legislation, and heard 169 bills this week alone. In total, about 390 House bills are continuing to the Senate. Next week, we’ll begin sorting bills passed by the Senate and then break into committees again to consider those bills.
One of my bills passed this week, HB2399. This is part of the Legislature’s push for criminal justice reform. The bill gives the option for a landlord to lease to someone with a felony conviction. It is not overriding the property owner’s rights, because the bill allows landlords to choose whether to lease to felons. Affordable housing is one of several immediate issues faced by people leaving prison, and I believe this bill would help diminish that problem in our state. I’m thankful my colleagues in the House agreed and passed the bill unanimously.
I also served as a coauthor on HB1246, which provides a 4 percent cost of living adjustment for retirees in all six of the state’s retirement funds, including retired teachers, firefights, police and other public employees. The state hasn’t given a COLA to these retirees in 11 years, before the author of the bill, Rep. Avery Frix of Muskogee, was even in high school. After our public employees dedicated their lives to our state, we need to provide for them in the best way possible. I was glad the bill received overwhelming support in the House and encourage my counterparts in the Senate to closely consider this legislation as well.
The House was buzzing with conversation this week about transparency. One bill related to transparency is HB1395 by Rep. Sheila Dills of Tulsa, which would hold virtual charter schools to the same level of transparency as other public schools. Virtual charter schools receive state money, but they currently aren’t required to submit the same reports as public schools. This bill corrects that inconsistency and also holds virtual charter school governing boards members to the same standard as public school boards. All organizations that receive taxpayer dollars should be held to the highest standard of transparency in our state, and I’m pleased the bill passed 95-0.
On Wednesday, Gov. Stitt signed five agency accountability and transparency bills. These give the executive branch the authority to hire and fire agency leaders for our five largest agencies that are led by unelected directors. Until these bills were signed, the directors were held accountable only to the agency governing boards, which were also unelected. The governor, as the elected authority of the executive branch, needs this authority to ensure our agencies are as transparent and effective as possible.
This week has been busy, but I look forward to continuing to serve the community of District 31 at the Capitol. Thank you for the opportunity to serve!