Oklahoma state senators already at work filing bills
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Sunday, December 23, 2012
12/23/12 at 5:26 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Senators have filed wide-ranging measures as the February session approaches.
Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, has filed Senate Bill 22 to create a guest worker permit program.
The Department of Labor would administer the program.
It would allow undocumented individuals ages 18 and up to stay in the state legally if they purchase a guest worker permit for $1,000.
Those applying would have to find a sponsor who agrees to hire them and provide basic health insurance coverage.
To be eligible, the applicant would have to agree to a criminal background check and could not have a felony.
Coates filed a similar measure last year, but it didn't get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Last year's version said the person would not qualify for unemployment benefits. The current measure allows for it, Coates said.
The new measure also reduces the fee to $1,000 from the $2,000 listed in last year's legislation, Coates said.
It would also allow those who are approved to obtain a driver's license as long as they had the required insurance coverage, Coates said.
"I think the Republicans are finally beginning to wake up a little bit," Coates said, noting that guest workers represent a huge conservative voting bloc his party has driven away.
Coates said that under the measure, illegal immigrants would have an avenue to work legally in the state, providing a boost in sales and tax revenues.
Transparency issue: Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Sayre, has filed Senate Bill 19 to make budget bills more transparent.
"It would basically force appropriations bills to be published ahead of time so people could look at them," Ivester said. "Currently it is at the discretion of leadership."
In the past, lawmakers had been given only a few minutes to look at appropriations bills before a vote was called, he said.
"It is not as transparent as it should be," Ivester said.
Two lawmakers have sued the state over how an appropriations bill was handled last year that gave funds to Youth Expo, a youth livestock show.
"I didn't approve of how it was done," Ivester said.
Others: Other measures include gutting the end-of-instruction exam law, which requires students to pass four out of seven tests to get a diploma, and granting state employees a pay raise.
Original Print Headline: Senators already at work filing bills
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465