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Two Teacher Pay Raise Bills Survive Major State Legislative Deadline

Mar 24, 2017

Bills in the Oklahoma legislature faced a major deadline Thursday: they had to pass in their chamber of origin to continue through the legislative process. Bills affecting anti-discriminatory laws were not successful, but two teacher pay raise measures will move ahead.

Senate Bill 694 by Josh Brecheen, R-Ada, would have limited local governments from passing anti discrimination laws more stringent than the state anti discrimination law. The measure did not pass.

“The state’s anti discrimination law does not cover sexual orientation, and that was really the issue involved,” Shawn Ashley said in his weekly interview with KGOU. Municipal governments in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman have passed anti-discrimination ordinances that protect sexual orientation.

The measure failed twice. First, when the bill itself was voted down in the Senate and later when a motion to reconsider was voted down.

Another bill addressing anti-discrimination, Senate Bill 197, was not heard on the Senate floor. The “Right to Conscience Act”  would have given private businesses and churches the right to refuse service to individuals their “sincerely held religious beliefs or conscience” disagreed with.

The author of the bill, Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, chose not to have it heard.

“By not having the bill heard, it does remain alive. While the bill itself will not advance necessarily this session, it could come back next year and be heard again,” Ashley said.

Teacher pay raise measures were more successful, with bills passing out of both chambers.

The House passed its so-called “1-2-3 plan,” House Bill 1114, which would raise teachers’ salaries $6,000 over three years - $1,000 in the first year, $2,000 in the second and $3,000 in the third.

The Senate passed its plan, Senate Bill 618, to raise teachers’ salaries by 4 percent for two consecutive years.

These measures have faced disapproval by some legislators, particularly in the Senate, who do not want to pass teacher pay raise measures until the state’s budget shortfall is remedied.

With the state facing a nearly $880 million budget hole, House appropriations and budget subcommittees met with state agencies yesterday to discuss how a 14.5 percent funding cut would affect them.

“Of course, agencies were telling the various subcommittees that it would be devastating,” Ashley said.

Oklahoma City’s superintendent, Aurora Lora, said they would have to look at closing schools. Tulsa school officials said they are running out of places to cut.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On SB 694’s failure:

The bill failed on Thursday, not once, but twice actually. First, on a vote on the bill itself and then on a motion to reconsider. The members did not even vote to reconsider it. That means it’s likely dead for the remainder of this session and next year, as well.

On the teacher pay raises passed:

A couple of weeks ago, the House passed its “1-2-3 plan,” which would give a $1,000 raise the first year, $2,000 the second and $3,000 the third. On Wednesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 618, which is different than what we saw in the Senate appropriations committee. This calls for a four percentage point increase in the first year, 2017-2018, and then a four percentage point increase in the second year, 2018-2019. Sen. Stanislawski said that amounted to about $1,500/year pay increase for teachers.

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Dick Pryor: Shawn, the deadline has passed for bills to be heard on the floor of the house of origin. That’s the end of the line for many bills.

Shawn Ashley: That’s correct. It looks like about 145 bills failed to make the deadline on Thursday, cutting the number down from about 815 bills of the more than 2,000 that were filed down to 670 or so that will continue to make their way through the process.

Pryor: One of the bills that failed was Sen. Josh Brecheen’s preemption bill.

Ashley: That’s right. What this bill would have done would have limited local government entities, your county governments and your state governments, from passing anti discrimination laws that were essentially broader than what the state anti-discrimination law says. The state’s anti discrimination law does not cover sexual orientation, and that was really the issue involved. The bill failed on Thursday, not once, but twice actually. First, on a vote on the bill itself and then on a motion to reconsider. The members did not even vote to reconsider it. That means it’s likely dead for the remainder of this session and next year, as well.

Pryor: Sen. Joseph Silk’s Oklahoma “Right of Conscience” bill was not heard by his own choosing.

Ashley: That’s right. In fact, that came right after Sen. Brecheen’s bill, Senate Bill 694, fell in defeat. Sen. Silk’s bill was somewhat similar in a way, in that it would have allowed private businesses to make decisions of conscience and not serve certain individuals if that was their choice. By not having the bill heard, it does remain alive. While the bill itself will not advance necessarily this session, it could come back next year and be heard again.

Pryor: Teacher pay raise bills are still alive.

Ashley: That’s correct. A couple of weeks ago, the House passed its 1-2-3 plan, which would give a $1,000 raise the first year, $2,000 the second and $3,000 the third. On Wednesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 618, which is different than what we saw in the Senate appropriations committee. This calls for a four percentage point increase in the first year, 2017-2018, and then a four percentage point increase in the second year, 2018-2019. Sen. Stanislawski said that amounted to about $1,500/year pay increase for teachers.

Pryor: What’s the latest on the state budget?

Ashley: Well, on Thursday, we saw the House appropriations and budget subcommittees hold a series of meetings talking about a request put forth by House Appropriations and Budget Chair Leslie Osborn to state agencies, on what impact a 14.5 percent budget cut would have. Of course, agencies were telling the various subcommittees that it would be devastating. In the education subcommittee, for example, Oklahoma City superintendent of public schools, Aurora Lora essentially reiterated what we’ve already heard, that they would be looking at closing schools. We heard similar stories out of Tulsa, that they too are running out of ways in which they can cut. In the health subcommittee, it was much the same story. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services talked about the impact that it would have on their federal funding, meaning that they would lose not only state dollars, but additional dollars, as well.

Pryor: Democrats also rolled out a budget plan.

Ashley: That’s right. House Democratic leader, Scott Inman, outlined a plan which they have come up with that would increase the gross production tax. It would then also add a new income tax bracket, essentially at a higher rate for higher earners and then it would also provide some sales tax on services, therefore filling up the budget hole and allowing them to address some of the needs that the agencies say that they are having.

Pryor: What should we watch for in the days ahead?

Ashley: In the days ahead, we move back into committees. Those bills that were heard and passed in the House go across to the Senate and they’ll be heard by Senate committees and then the opposite is true. The Senate bills that passed go to the House to be heard by their committees there and they’ll begin whittling down again that 670 or so bills that are currently still alive this legislative session.

Pryor: eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley, thank you.

 

Ashley: You’re very welcome.

 

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