Session is moving along quickly. Constitutionally, we’re required to adjourn by the last Friday in May. Once we get the executive nominations considered, the remaining bills passed out of conference committee and approved by both chambers, and approve a budget, we can adjourn.
The last week of April was the deadline to report bills off the floor of the opposite chamber. Now we’re working to finalize those bills that both chambers liked but couldn’t agree on amendments. These bills have been assigned to joint conference committees consisting of both Senate and House members. If the committee can agree on language, it is then presented again to both chambers for one last vote.
As of Monday, Gov. Stitt had signed 138 House bills and 201 Senate bills, including two of my Senate bills.
SB 990 requires any premium rate filing for a Medicare supplement policy to be approved by the Insurance Commissioner and communicated to the policyholder between September 1 and October 30 of each year. Each increase will take effect on January 1 of the following year. This new law will go into effect July 1 and will help seniors who are on fixed incomes be able to better plan for possible rate hikes.
SB 893 will restore an income tax deduction for foster care expenses effective January 1, 2019. The deduction is limited to $5,000 per tax year, provided the taxpayer has been under contract to provide care to a foster child for at least six months. If the taxpayer has been providing care for a foster child for less than six months, then the deduction amount must be adjusted on a monthly pro rata share. Every child deserves to have a safe, loving home and foster parents provide that until these children are reunited with their families or adopted. We must do all we can to support our foster families who selflessly open their homes and hearts for these kids.
Gov. Stitt has also approved HB 1074 and 1075, both of which I served on as the principal Senate author.
HB 1074 requires DHS to verify the applicability of the Indian Child Welfare Act within three months of a child, to whom it might apply, being taken into custody. The department is also required to conduct a nationwide relative search within 3 months of a child being taken into custody, for the purpose of identifying a fit and willing relative with whom to place the child.
HB 1075 requires that every child taken into DHS custody be provided, within 7 days, an assessment of his or her physical, medical, mental health and educational needs and requires the assessment be updated at regular intervals while the child is in the department’s custody.
These three measures will go into effect November 1st.
In other news, budget negotiations are ongoing. House and Senate leadership are working with the Governor’s office to find compromise on a few last items. The biggest issue being worked on is education funding. Educators from all around the state have told senators that their main concern is getting more funding into their classrooms.
On Thursday, Senate leadership announced a new plan to invest an additional $200 million into classrooms and teacher pay raises. This is much higher than the $120 million investment that was previously being negotiated. This would allow schools to lower class sizes, hire new teachers, counselors and support staff as well as buy textbooks and other classroom supplies. The plan provides flexibility for local school districts to prioritize their needs and decide how best to utilize the new funding.
Senate leadership is waiting to see if the House and Governor’s office accept the proposal. If so, a budget agreement may be reached this week.
Please check our Senate website (www.oksenate.gov) and Twitter account (OKSENATEINFO) for the latest updates.
If you have any questions or concerns, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 521-5522. You can also write me at the state Capitol at Sen. Paul Scott, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 428, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.