The House recently met its third-reading deadline by which all House bills had to be passed in order to advance to the Senate. The same deadline was met in the Senate chamber.
Once a bill makes it through the committee process, it can be brought to the floor of the House for a vote. This is known as the third-reading for a bill. During this phase, the bill’s author will give a brief explanation of the bill’s intent and stand for questions and debate. However, sometimes bills need to be worked on to satisfy all stakeholders before passing off the floor. This can be accomplished with an amendment to the legislation, or the author may decide to strike title. Striking title signals a willingness to keep working on the legislation as it is sent to the opposite chamber for consideration. Bills with title stricken have to be returned to the legislative chamber of origin before the title can be restored and a final vote taken. Once title is restored, the author has to give an explanation of what has changed in the measure to now make it worthy of passage and being signed into law. A lawmaker might vote on a bill with title stricken to allow it to advance to see if it improves, but it is not a promise they will vote on the final version of the legislation.
Here is a look at several noteworthy bills that passed off the floor last week.
House Bill 3350 will grant a cost-of-living adjustment to state retirees in six state pension plans. Teachers, firefighters, police and other law enforcement officers, other state employees, and judges and justices would get a 4 percent COLA if they’ve been receiving retirement benefits from the state for five years or more; a 2 percent COLA if they’ve been receiving the benefits for two years but not yet five. Our retirees have gone for 12 years without an adjustment while we worked to stabilize the state’s pension system. We are now in a position to offer the COLA without undue harm to the pension system. This increase will help our retirees who have been dealing with higher costs for health insurance premiums and co-pays as well as other living expenses. I so appreciate the work these employees performed in service to our state. I’m hoping the state Senate will quickly pass this legislation and get it to the governor for his signature.
According to information from AAA, Oklahoma is the only state without a law requiring children 8 to 17 to wear a seat belt when riding in the back seat of a passenger vehicle. House Bill 2791 is a measure that corrects this gap in our seatbelt law and passed off the floor 78-18. A former police officer ran this bill with support from AAA, Safe Kids of Oklahoma, law enforcement, and health care organizations from across the state. This will help protect our young people.
Legislation supporting veteran students also won approval last week. House Bill 1907 requires all institutions in the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education to give priority enrollment and course registration to students who are active members of the military. It also gives priority to students who are eligible to receive educational, financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Students who are veterans have already shown great dedication to our nation and deserve to be rewarded with the ability to enroll with preference toward earning a college degree so they can more easily transition to the workforce.
House Bill 3378 offers an apprenticeship tax credit to employers that invest in work-based-learning through registered apprenticeship programs. We have a gap in our skilled trades’ workforce currently, as licensed contractors and journeymen age out of the system. This measure will bring those interested in pursuing a trade, such as plumbing, electrical, or multiple others, into an apprenticeship program, and it will help employers offset the cost of implementing such programs.
Another measure that passed creates the “Oklahoma Teacher Loan Repayment Program” to be in effect beginning 2020-2021. The program would provide educational loan repayment awards to individuals who have graduated after the effective date from an accredited or approved teacher education program in Oklahoma. It also requires those graduates to have been employed for at least five years at a Title I (low-income) school in this state. House Bill 3382 has a five-year cap of $4,000 per qualified teacher. This is just another way to support our fantastic teachers who are teaching in sometimes the hardest of conditions.
Hope everyone is having a wonderful Spring Break this week. Most of us are having staycations, but it’s still nice to have time off to enjoy our families.
Until next time then, I can be reached at Jadine.Nollan@okhouse.gov or at my Capitol office by calling (405) 557-7390. God bless.