Collinsville, Oklahoma
March 22, 2017
Okla. Legislative News
Multiple Press Releases From Past Few Weeks
Office of the President Pro Tempore - Senator Mike Schulz
For Immediate Release: March 22, 2017

Oklahoma Senate Approves Education Bills

Teacher pay, teacher recruitment, reducing administrative costs among measures

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved several education related bills, including measures that address teacher pay, teacher recruitment, and the reduction of administrative costs, among other issues.

The measures approved by the Senate on Wednesday are among the education issues included in the Senate Republicans’ 2017 legislative agenda.

“Investing in education now will pay dividends for Oklahoma for decades to come, which is why Senate Republicans have made education a key part of our legislative agenda this year. It all starts in the classroom. We want to make sure our students leave high school prepared for success in college and the workforce, and we want to reward and adequately compensate the talented, creative, and dedicated teachers who help our students succeed,” said President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus. “These investments we make in education will pay off by giving Oklahoma a more skilled and talented workforce, which is what we need to help make Oklahoma an even better place to invest and do business.”

Sen. Gary Stanislawski, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, authored Senate Bill 618, which modifies the minimum salary schedule and increases pay for classroom teachers.

“Our teachers are so important to us in this state and to the families throughout Oklahoma. We need to continue to push forward to let our message be heard that we support our teachers and we would like to give them a pay raise. Does that mean that we’re going to get everything we want this year? Maybe not, but it’s so important. We have to keep pushing,” said Stanislawski, R-Tulsa.

Among the other education measures approved by the Senate were:
•SB 514 (Stanislawski) requires the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to study shared administrative services of school districts in the state in the hopes of reducing administrative costs.
•SB 15 (Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Piedmont) directs the OSDE and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to implement a targeted recruiting program for teachers.
•SB 70 (Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville) directs the State Auditor and Inspector to conduct a performance audit on the OSDE.
•SB 72 (Daniels) directs the State Auditor and Inspector to conduct a performance audit of the Department of Career and Technology.
•SB 84 (Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair) extends the probationary promotion program for students under the Reading Sufficiency Act.
•SB 243 (Stanislawski) requires a monthly financial report to be prepared by the local school's treasurer and sent to the local school board.
•SB 244 (Stanislawski) requires virtual charter schools to track attendance.
•SB 389 (Stanislawski) requires the State Board of Education to review and send a report to legislative leadership on pupil grade level weights every five years.
•SB 515 (Stanislawski) modifies the point system in determining a school's grade on the state A-F report card system.
•SB 261 (Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona) creates a task force to study and make recommendations on reforms to the State Aid formula, including but not be limited to the grade level weights, the student category weights and the transportation factor of the State Aid formula.
•SB 393 (Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate) allows teachers to objectively review the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
•SB 428 (Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud) allows retired teachers to be re-employed by schools.
•SB 529 (Smalley) increases accountability to combat fraud in the Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) to ensure funds are available for students in the program.
•SB 445 (Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow) increases flexibility within existing tax credits related to the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act to better serve low-income and high-needs students.
•SB 450 (Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro) instructs schools to treat religious viewpoints expressed by a student with the same respect it would treat a secular viewpoint.
•SB 632 (Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee) creates the Education Compact for Students in State Care Act, which established a board to facilitate the transfer of children in state care to a school.
•Senate Joint Resolution 9 (Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow) increases civics education by requiring OSDE to incorporate a citizenship test into the standards for grades 9-12.


--------- Contact: Aaron Cooper, (405) 521-5621 or


Senate Review by Senator J.J. Dossett

Tough on crime initiatives have always been popular in Oklahoma. Through the years, bill after bill has been approved increasing fines, jail and prison time on a number of crimes. Oklahoma has also created many new laws so that a single crime can result in multiple charges being filed, heaping on even more time behind bars and additional fines to be paid off once released. Many of these “get even tougher on crime” laws are aimed at nonviolent offenses.

We are number one in the WORLD in the incarceration of women. In overall incarceration, we have the second-highest rate in the country. Our prisons are at 120 percent of capacity—that in and of itself is a dangerous situation, plus those prisons are dangerously understaffed because we don’t have the resources needed to hire and keep additional guards and other corrections personnel.

Studies have projected that despite reforms passed by the legislature and voters last year, in the next ten years the state’s prison population will grow by 25 percent, costing the state nearly $2 billion in new prison construction and operating costs to deal with the additional 7,200 inmates.

It’s obvious that additional reforms are needed. We continue to lock up too many nonviolent offenders. A report by the Justice Reform Task Force found 75 percent of prison admissions were for nonviolent offenses, and most of those offenders had only one or zero prior convictions. The report also found we punish nonviolent offenders more often and more harshly than our neighboring states.

Although additional criminal justice reforms were recommended, the report did show that part of the problem of locking up too many nonviolent offenders for too long would be addressed by the passage of State Question 780. But even those reforms are at risk after the House of Representatives voted to undo changes overwhelmingly approved by Oklahoma voters last November.

That measure has been sent to the Senate for consideration. I would strongly urge my fellow members to listen to the will of the voters and leave the reforms in SQ 780 in place.

Violent, habitual criminals need to be in prison, not only as a way to make them pay for their crimes, but to keep law abiding citizens safe. In contrast, continuing to stack additional prison time on nonviolent offenders instead of holding them accountable with programs that also help them turn their lives around, such as drug courts, has been a disastrous course. Study after study has shown this approach does not prevent crime, nor does it turn around lives once they have served their time. It’s robbing our citizens of precious resources that could be redirected to areas like education, mental health and substance abuse programs—services that really can put people on the road to a successful life and turn lives around once they’ve taken a wrong turn.

I welcome your comments on state government and the issues before us. Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator J.J. Dossett at the State Capitol, Room 522-B, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5566.


Senate Review by Senator J.J. Dossett

There are several factors that have contributed to this state’s continued budget woes, but oil prices and the economy is certainly part of it. Using money that may only be available for one single year for expenses that are going to have to be funded year after year has also contributed to our budget woes. Cutting the state’s income tax twice in recent years has also reduced the amount of revenue to fund important services like education, public safety and health and mental health programs.

Last year, our state faced a $1.3 billion shortfall. This year we’re facing another shortfall of $878 million. At the same time, our classrooms are becoming increasingly overcrowded and teachers are leaving Oklahoma schools for better paying jobs in other states. Our prisons are severely overcrowded and dangerously understaffed. We don’t have enough mental health services to meet the needs of all the Oklahomans who need them. Our state is one of the worst in the nation when it comes to prescription drug addiction, but there are too few treatment programs available to adequately address this epidemic.

These programs and agencies have already been cut to the bone. Solving these problems will take an investment of resources—resources we don’t have, and there seems to be little political will to raise the needed revenue.

Too many politicians are willing to vote for a tax cut, but refuse to do the right thing when the state is facing a crisis—and that’s exactly what we’re faced with right now. But these same politicians are more than willing to raise “fees” on state services and programs each and every year.

Research by the Oklahoma Policy Institute pointed out how legislators have increasingly turned to fee increases to pay for services. For example, a speeding ticket for driving 20 miles per hour over the speed limit was $107 in 1992. By 2016, it was $265.25—that’s an increase of 150 percent. If you look at the actual fine for that traffic violation, it was $30 in 1992, but it only had increased by $5 by 2016. That’s because on top of that fine, there are now 15 fees totally $235.25, compared to just six fees adding up to $67 in 1992.

So when you get in a hurry because you are late for work and get a ticket for speeding 20 mph over the limit, of that $265.25 cost, your actual fine is $35. The rest of it consists of additional fees to pay for a variety of services ranging from trauma care programs to forensic science improvement, law library fees, clerk’s fees, sheriff’s fees—a total of 16 fees in all. The programs they fund are certainly important, but it illustrates how legislators who oppose raising taxes have instead relied on raising fees to pay for those services.

It seems like this year there are bills coming through all the time that contain new fees or increases in existing ones. We have services people depend on, and those services have to be funded. But to tell the public how great it is to cut taxes and then turn around and raise fees on everything seems to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

I welcome your comments on state government and the issues before us. Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator J.J. Dossett at the State Capitol, Room 522-B, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5566.

Office of the President Pro Tempore -- Senator Mike Schulz
For Immediate Release: March 21, 2017

Oklahoma Senate approves judicial reforms

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved a handful of judicial reform bills, including measures that would change the way state judges are appointed.

“These reforms are a measured approach to help restore the balance of power among the three, co-equal branches of government in Oklahoma. Too many times, we’ve seen the judiciary extend beyond its constitutional role and instead take on the role of a super-legislator. These changes also will roll back the outsized role the trial lawyers play in appointing judges to the bench. The governor’s office and the members of the Senate are directly elected by the citizens of Oklahoma and should be afforded more authority and responsibility in judicial appointments,” said President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus.

Sen. Anthony Sykes, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, offered several of the judicial reform measures.

“Failing to enact judicial reforms continues to put Oklahoma at the mercy of a system that gives too much power to a select group of trial lawyers instead of the duly elected representatives of the people. The governor and members of the Legislature are immediately accountable to the people for the decisions they make. These common-sense reforms will provide more accountability and help put more power into the hands of the people, as our founders intended,” said Sykes, R-Moore.

Among the bills approved by the Senate were:
•SB 708 (Sykes) requires a district judge to have served as lead counsel in at least three jury trials before being elected or appointed to serve on the bench.
•SB 779 (Sykes) changes the amount of judges each judicial district may nominate.
•SJR 43 (Sykes) would allow voters to decide whether to amend the judicial appointment process to model the federal system. Under this proposal, the governor would nominate candidates to fill judicial vacancies and the Oklahoma Senate would confirm or deny the governor’s appointment. The Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) would rate the governor’s judicial nominees as either “qualified” or “not qualified.”
•SJR 44 (Sykes) would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Constitution to modify the judicial nominating process. Under this proposal, the JNC would provide the governor with five qualified nominees to fill a judicial vacancy, instead of the current recommendation of three nominees. The governor would be allowed to reject those nominees and request five new nominees. The governor would then select one nominee, whose name would be forwarded to the Oklahoma Senate for confirmation.
•SB 213 (Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow) would change the boundaries of Oklahoma Supreme Court judicial districts to correspond with the number of congressional districts in Oklahoma plus adding at-large positions.


------ Contact: Aaron Cooper, (405) 521-5780 or

Oklahoma State Senate -- Communications Division -- State Capitol

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 24, 2017

Senate Review by Senator J.J. Dossett

This past Tuesday, the State Board of Equalization met to give the final certification of how much money the state would have available to appropriate in Fiscal Year 2018, which begins July 1.

The size of the budget hole we’re facing grew about $10 million from the original certification back in December. We’re now facing a shortfall of about $878 million. On top of that, revenue collections for the current fiscal year have failed to hit the amount projected, so a revenue failure for FY-2017 was declared. That means that all those state agencies and other state-funded entities that have endured several years of deep cuts have to take another hit in the last three months of the fiscal year.

The state came up 5.7 percent short, but the Legislature is required to leave a five percent pad to cover small shortfalls. Because of that pad, the amount that will have to be cut is significantly less than it would have been—it amounts to a .7 percent cut, but that’s still a total of $34.6 million. Again, that’s on top of all the other cuts our schools, colleges and universities, health and mental health programs, public safety and more have already taken.

That’s why I am amazed, but not surprised, that the Senate Education Committee voted this week for a bill that would drain even more funding from our schools. Call it a voucher bill or an education savings account measure—the bottom line is it robs public schools of even more money at a time when they are already struggling. It would allow parents in the three counties with the highest populations, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Cleveland Counties, to use some of the state tax dollars that are appropriated for public schools to send their children to private schools.

Our public schools are already underfunded. Our teacher pay is the worst in the country. Our classrooms are overcrowded and many lack enough textbooks for all their students. Losing a handful of students won’t reduce the cost of educating those remaining in the public schools. They’ll still need the same number of teachers, but they’ll have less money to hire and keep them and there will be less money for other classroom needs. We are required to provide a public education to every child in this state who seeks one. Our schools don’t get to cherry pick for the most academically or athletically gifted the way a private school can. By law, we must provide all children with an educational opportunity.

Our schools have received the deepest cuts in the nation since the great recession hit in 2008. It’s unthinkable that anyone could justify a bill that would take even more money away from our schools.

I welcome your comments on state government and the issues before us. Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator J.J. Dossett at the State Capitol, Room 522-B, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5566.

Office of the President Pro Tempore -- Senator Mike Schulz

For Immediate Release: March 21, 2017

Oklahoma Senate advances criminal justice reforms

OKLAHOMA CITY – Building upon the success of previous legislation, the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved a series of criminal justice reform bills.

The measures continue an effort by the Oklahoma Senate to examine and modify, as necessary, the state’s criminal justice system in order to address the state’s prison population and provide treatment for those in the justice system who need mental health or substance abuse services.

“The path Oklahoma is on now is unsustainable. We cannot continue to lock up those with mental health or substance abuse problems. We need to provide them the help they need to get back to being productive members of society. These measures continue the successful criminal justice reforms advanced recently by the Oklahoma Senate. I appreciate the work of Senator Greg Treat and Senator Wayne Shaw for taking the lead in helping us address these critical issues,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus.

Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, who served on a task force created by Gov. Mary Fallin to study criminal justice reform, authored several of the reform measures that passed the Senate.

“These reforms continue our important work to address the state’s prison population in a comprehensive way. These reforms offer a balanced approach to criminal justice. They make sure we keep the public safe, but these reforms also offer men and women with mental health or addiction problems a way to rehabilitate. We’re keeping families together and keeping more Oklahomans as productive members of society. Additionally, these reforms in the long-term will reduce the state’s prison population and help the state save millions of dollars that can be redirected to other core areas of government like education, roads and bridges, and health care,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, authored two of the bills that passed the Senate Tuesday.

“These measures represent the serious commitment of the Oklahoma Senate to criminal justice reform. This legislation is another important step in the process, but our journey is long from being complete. I appreciate my Senate colleagues for their support of these important measures,” Shaw said.

The bills that passed the Senate were:
•Senate Bill 603 (Treat) requires the Department of Corrections to administer a risk and needs assessment for each prisoner. The agency must develop a plan of action based on said assessment.
•SB 604 (Treat) requires the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training to include personal safety planning necessary at the pretrial stages of a potential criminal case.
•SB 609 (Treat) requires the Office of the Attorney General to adopt standards for certification of victim assistance professionals based on guidelines from the National Advocate Credentialing Program Consortium.
•SB 649 (Treat) exempts elderly citizens from escalating punishment for committing a felony (with certain exceptions).
•SB 689 (Treat) allows a nonviolent offender sentenced to life in prison to have his or her sentence modified after 10 years of imprisonment. The measure allows the courts to waive fees for service.
•SB 793 (Treat) creates the Corrections and Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force to track implementation of criminal justice reform recommendations.
•SB 650 (Shaw) reduces the time by half in which a convicted offender can expunge their records provided no other crime is committed.
•SB 786 (Shaw) reduces charges associated with burglary if no person is present in the home

Other measures dealing with the criminal justice system that passed the Senate were:
•SB 38 (Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah) increases the Forensic Science Improvement Assessment fee from $5 to $10 to support the upkeep of state forensic lab equipment.
•SB 247 (Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, and Thompson) requires the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate all law-enforcement related shootings in jurisdictions of 150,000 or less, and allows the OSBI to review law-enforcement related shootings in jurisdictions of 150,000 or more.
•SB 303 (Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud) authorizes the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to submit fingerprints to the FBI Rap Back System.
•SB 377 (Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate) provides framework for a nonviolent offender to be sentenced to electronically confined conditions.
•SB 657 (Brecheen) creates the Protection Against Sexual Exploitation by a Mental Health Services Provider Act.


------ Contact: Aaron Cooper, (405) 521-5780 or

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