This week marks the House deadline for voting on legislation before it goes to the Senate, so this is the time of year when Representatives begin to spend a significant deal of time on the House floor. It is also the first major test for many of the more interesting and controversial issues.
One of the bills recently considered by the House was House Bill 3393 which was sponsored by state Representative Jason Nelson. Nelson has invested significant effort in developing HB 3393 which provides a method for special needs students to go to schools which provide them with needed support.
In the past I have written about the immorality of state government's policy regarding inner city students in failing school districts. State government could enable these students to be placed into an environment which is more conducive to their success by refunding their tax contribution to the education system in the form of a refund such as a voucher or tax credits.
A similar issue exists in those areas where parents have disabled or challenged children who cannot receive the help they need in many school districts. The districts simply do not have the resources necessary to properly assist these children with their education. House Bill 3393 takes a step towards the implementation of a common sense school choice policy by providing an opportunity for school choice to disabled students. The bill was approved by a bipartisan vote of 78-19. In my view, this strong vote reflects real progress on the school choice issue.
Speaker of the House Chris Benge won approval for the first of what I believe will be several consolidation and money savings proposals. House Joint Resolution 1080 would allow Oklahomans to vote on consolidating the Pardon and Parole Board with the Department of Corrections. The consolidation should save the taxpayers several thousand dollars each year as these two groups will be able to use the same infrastructure to provide service to their respective boards. Since the subject matter is often duplicative, this is an extremely common sense approach to savings. It is important to note that the members of the Pardon and Parole Board will still be independently appointed and as such, should not lose their independence in making the important decisions they are charged with considering.
The Speaker used the opportunity of this legislation to explain to the Representatives that because of the state budget shortfall, our state government will look much different after this legislative session comes to a close.
Speaker Benge's proposal was approved by a vote of 64-30 and will be sent to the Senate for consideration.