Stillwater News Press

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March 22, 2014

DENNIS CASEY: Oklahoma House finished with its bills

STILLWATER, Okla. — The deadline week for House passage of House bills included several late nights, but I am proud of the work we accomplished for Oklahoma.

Not only did we find reasonable solutions to a number of policy questions, but we passed a joint resolution to ask voters if they want to improve the legislative process by making us focus exclusively on the budget every other year.

If the amendment makes it through the remainder of the legislative process and receives the support of voters, it will change the way we do business in the House and Senate. The way we do business now does not give us enough time to handle the budget in as deliberate a manner as it warrants.

Neglecting the budget does a disservice to our state. In years that we focused exclusively on the budget, we would have more time to work on analysis and agency review. It would also mean that we passed new laws only every other year, reducing the number of new laws added to statute.

Education is near and dear to my heart so I am always highly focused on those policy questions.

In addition to passing a reform to the third-grade retention law to restore local decision-making, the House passed a bill that will increase funding for education.

House Bill 2642 would create a fund that would automatically provide education funding for schools outside of the budget process or “off the top.” That money would be used to increase the per-pupil expenditure through the state aid formula.

There is a revenue trigger in the bill, but as long as revenues continue to rise slightly, schools can expect to see $57.5 million in “off-the-top” funding for fiscal year 2015, and eventually as much as $575 million in “off-the-top” funding. I know there has been disappointment in the amount of funding provided to schools in past years. I think this bill shows that things are going to improve in the area of education funding. The 94 votes in favor of the bill spoke volumes about how committed lawmakers are becoming on the issue of education funding.

We also passed House Bill 3399 to reverse the implementation of Common Core standards in Oklahoma.

The alternative standards that will be implemented will be developed by state higher education institutions.

This method is called Option B of No Child Left Behind. The bill also cedes exclusive authority to local schools in developing a curriculum and materials to meet those standards. A number of people have come to me with their concerns about Common Core and I am pleased that we were able to provide an alternative that will still ensure our students are college and career ready.

We are also seeing more commitment to the funding of appropriate pay for state highway troopers, corrections employees and child welfare workers. House lawmakers passed a bill to raise the monthly expense allowance for troopers and state senators have approved a pay raise. House lawmakers also approved a bill that will gradually raise the pay of corrections employees and child welfare workers in the upcoming years.

I want to seek your input and encourage you to talk with me about these proposals. To contact my office, call 405-557-7344 or e-mail dennis.casey@okhouse.gov.

State Rep. Dennis Casey is a Republican from Morrison.

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