We’re now entering into the eighth week of session meaning we’re almost halfway through the legislative session. No budget agreement has been made yet but negotiations are continuing and according to leadership they’re going well. Hopefully, we’ll know something soon.
Our state’s education standards have been a topic of major discussion the last few years. In 2014, the Legislature approved HB 3399, which repealed Common Core Standards. Those standards had been approved in 2010 but after meeting with national education experts and local educators and administrators, it was decided that the standards were too specific in language and, therefore, preventing flexibility and individualized instruction. They were also not considered age appropriate in several areas.
We wanted Oklahoma standards and not federally-mandated standards. Now the new Oklahoma standards are being criticized by out of state professors because they aren’t rigid or specific enough and legislators are listening.
Three resolutions were filed last week about the standards. SJR 75 calls for the disapproval of the standards with instructions. It specifically disapproves portions of the English language arts and mathematics standards and would send them back to the state Board of Education for further work. The Board would be required to submit revised standards to the House Speaker and Senate Pro Tem prior to the last 30 days of this session, which is scheduled to end on Friday, May 27. If this resolution was approved that would mean that the Board would have to have new standards to the legislature by April 27 so we could vote on them.
House Joint Resolution 1070 approves the standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics adopted by the Board with certain instructions. This resolution would allow the legislature to approve the standards in whole or in part and resubmit them to the Board with instructions.
HJR 1071 disapproves the English Language Arts and Mathematics standards. It would also allow the legislature to approve in part or in whole the standards with instructions for the Board.
We should be voting on these resolutions early this week.
On Monday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on HJR 1019, which would submit to the voters a constitutional amendment to elect the Governor and Lt. Governor jointly beginning with the 2018 General Election. If approved this would meant that only one vote would be cast for those positions of the same political party. The Legislature would set the procedure as to how the team would be nominated.
The power of the governor has increased since statehood and this change would give that office additional power since the Lt. Governor would be directly under his or her authority similar to the vice president being under the president. The power of the legislature has been diminished since statehood due to the people voting to reduce that power in reaction to corruption over the decades by a handful of legislators. And they’ve sought to increase the power of the Governor in order to respond more efficiently to crisis situations.
Unfortunately, citizens forget that these powers have been taken away from legislators. The legislature lacks oversight powers for agencies because they have instead been turned over to the stronger executive authority. This has had both good and bad results. One of the negative impacts of the legislature losing those powers is that constituents who seek assistance from their legislator are frustrated when they find out they have no power to help address a certain problem. It seems there are always unintended consequences for every action.
This week, we’ll continue consideration of House bills in committee. Again, we have nearly 300 bills to consider before the next deadline, which is on Thursday, April 7.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Ron Sharp, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 429, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (405) 521-5539.