OKLAHOMA CITY — Dozens of new laws take effect Monday, in addition to a much-desired pay raise for correctional officers and state employees.
House Bill 2771 provides for a $1,500 hike for state employees with an annual gross salary of $40,000 or less. It provides for a $1,250 hike for those with an annual gross salary more than $40,000 but less than $50,000.
Those making more than $50,000 but less than $60,000 would get an $800 hike; those earning an annual gross salary of $60,000 or more would get $600 more.
“Lower-paid state employees and those working in correctional centers will benefit most from this pay increase, but Oklahoma still has work to do to bring state employee compensation up to where it needs to be,” said Tom Dunning, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.
Dunning said there is concern that rising health insurance premiums will eat up the pay raises.
Senate Bill 1045 provides a $2-an-hour raise to certain Department of Corrections employees, including correctional officers.
“Certainly we would like to have more, but this is a great start,” said Bobby Cleveland, executive director of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals.
Senate Bill 813, by Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, will allow certain businesses to offer complimentary wine and beer on site to those 21 years old or older.
It is limited to two alcoholic beverages, 12 ounces of wine and 24 ounces of beer per day per guest.
Bice said the measure would allow nail salons and barber shops, among other businesses, to offer complimentary beverages.
She said the response has been fantastic.
“A lot of these service-based businesses have wanted this option for quite some time,” Bice said.
Another measure, House Bill 2472, by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, prohibits trains from blocking traffic at a rail crossing with a public highway or street for more than 10 minutes, with some exceptions.
Violators are subject to a $1,000 fine.
McCall fought hard to get the measure passed.
“Blocked rail crossings are a problem statewide, but they are particularly a public safety and health issue in many communities where there may only be one or two crossings.”
McCall said that in his district he has heard countless stories of trains blocking crossings for up to five hours. In those cases, fire, police and ambulances have to drive 20 miles or more out of the way to respond to an emergency on the other side of the train, McCall said.
“This bill allows for the federal exemptions that permit trains to be stopped for certain situations, but it will hopefully incentivize railroad operator to get trains moving when those exemptions don’t apply,” McCall said.
Another measure, Senate Bill 926, by Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, requires that schools offering sex education teach the definition of consent.
The measures are among 86 that take effect Monday.
Tulsa City Councilors offered a forum recently on the Equality Indicators report, which uses 54 equality measures that compare outcomes of groups likely to experience inequalities.