State Rep. Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater) had mixed success with a pair of bills she authored going through committee.
Ranson took the lead on an effort to overturn straight-party voting in Oklahoma with House Bill 1016. It failed in a 1-4 vote out of the House Elections and Ethics Committee.
Another Ranson effort, House Bill 1027, found much more bipartisan support. The legislation to provide de-escalation training to public school educators and staff passed 13-0 through the House Common Education Committee.
HB 1016 would have removed the ability for Oklahoma voters to check a single box to select any member of that party on the ballot. It has heavily favored Republicans in recent elections. A report by news site Oklahoma Watch revealed that 45.5 percent of all Oklahoma voters chose the straight party option in the 2020 election – and 71 percent of straight-party voters were Republicans.
Cyndi Munson, the only Democrat on the committee, was the only yea vote.
“This is an issue that was brought up time and time again on constituent doorsteps,” Ranson wrote in a news release. "We are one of only six states across the nation that utilizes the antiquated practice of straight-party voting. Oklahoma has the opportunity for a civics knowledge revival as democracy works best with an educated public, and I feel strongly that straight-party voting is a barrier to that opportunity.
“If we remove straight-party voting, I believe many folks will continue to vote along party lines, but they would at least do so while acknowledging each candidate equally.”
HB 1027 requires school districts in collaboration with the State Department of Education and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to develop and offer training on violence de-escalation.
According to the bill’s current language, that information made available to school shall include, but is not limited to: information about services provided by community-based organizations related to mental health, substance abuse and trauma; information about the impact trauma and adverse childhood experiences can have on a student's ability to learn; the availability of mental health evaluation and treatment available by telemedicine; information about evidence-based strategies for prevention of at-risk behaviors; and information about violence de-escalation.
The information on violence de-escalation is included, but not limited to: training in evidence-based, trauma-informed teaching involving brain research including trauma's impact on development and triggers; procedures for setting up and maintaining a safe environment through self-regulation practices for both students and staff, and establishing and reviewing trauma-informed response protocol for the classroom and school to address behavior with positive and compassionate approaches.
“Our kids deal with a lot,” Ranson said. “Not only at school, but at home, as well. It is important our staff knows how to respond in a way that is most positive for everyone involved.”