State Representative Charles Ortega highlighted the key issues being discussed within the House Committee during a Legislative Luncheon held Friday, March 15, at the Western Oklahoma State College. The event was hosted by the Altus Kiwanis Club and Altus Chamber of Commerce.
“There is a lot of legislation floating around out there and we won’t know probably until the last part of the session where all of those are going to wind up and how it’s going to result,” Ortega said.
Pending education legislation includes issues such as reviewing the A through F grading system and assigning a task force to study how and what to implement to raise the bottom 25 percentile. Some bills being proposed also hope to correct problems with the common core initiative, while others would allow public schools to not be required to abide by any mandates that a charter school is not held to.
“There was one that passed out of the House that would allow special education teachers a pay increase over and above what regular teachers are paid,” said Ortega. If passed, those teachers would be paid 10% more, and be eligible for an additional 5% for staying in the same district after 5 years, he explained, partly as an incentive “due to lack of special education teachers we have.”
Of the two bills passed regarding school security, one will give local control to the school district, allowing teachers to carry firearms, and the other would “specify an individual to carry a gun.” Ortega indicated there is an intense firearm discussion throughout the House.
Another bill would allow students the expression of religious freedom, short of an open organized prayer in the classroom.
Beyond the focus of Oklahoma school systems, Ortega spoke about the House Committee addressing issues of income tax cuts, horse slaughter, unemployment, nullification of Obama care, agency fees, incentives for foster care families, runaway children and human trafficking, helicopter hog hunting, and making the renewal of expired driver’s licenses less painstaking.
They are also trying to render a sound budget.
When it comes to working on a budget, Ortega explained, not only will the concern be available funds, but also to work on a contingency plan to prepare for a possible sequestration, “incase we experience a 25 percent funding reduction from the federal government.”
The House Committee will hand the Senate approximately 340 bills for review.