Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks on Thursday unveiled the Senate Democrat’s 2017 legislative agenda with a focus on specific plans and solutions, which will ensure that core government services in Oklahoma are protected and enhanced in a way that benefits hard working Oklahoma families and our business community.
“Oklahoma teachers, small business owners and hard working families are looking to the legislature for reassurance that there are, in fact, plans on the table to address issues like our budget crisis, our education crisis and our healthcare crisis. The Democrats in the Senate are prepared to present and champion legislation which specifically addresses these issues,” said Sparks, D-Norman.
“Now is the time for bold ideas and true leadership. Non-election years are the time to do hard things and take hard votes. This session we must be prepared to do the right thing for Oklahoma and turn crises into opportunities. We are hopeful that these practical, common-sense ideas will gain the support of members across the political spectrum and, together, we can muster the political will to do hard things this session, which will truly benefit Oklahoma families and businesses,” said Democratic Caucus Chair Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City.
Senate Democrats have filed 91 bills this session with a clear focus on protecting and investing in public education, supporting Oklahoma business and industry, fixing the revenue problem in the state budget, making Oklahoma healthier and expanding access to healthcare for hard working Oklahomans, expanding criminal justice reform, and supporting and protecting the most vulnerable among us.
The 2017 Senate Democratic Agenda includes specific proposals in each of these areas:
Protecting and Investing in Public Education
Implementing an 8-year plan for the State Department of Education to get a better long-term view of how budget changes and legislative mandates impact our children, our teachers and our schools (SB 437 – Sparks).
Reinstating the National Board Certified Teacher bonus program to ensure merit pay opportunities for Oklahoma’s best, brightest and most innovative teachers (SB 463 – Sparks).
Supporting Oklahoma Business and Industry
Repealing Oklahoma’s non-compliance with the Real ID Act (SB 1 – Sparks, Floyd) and empowering the Department of Public Safety to implement a self-funding system, which will make Oklahoma compliant with the Real ID Act (SB 190 – Floyd) as quickly and efficiently as possible, so as to limit the impending interruption to the mission and work at our military installations and solve this problem promptly.
Protecting Oklahoma businesses from excessive fees and taxes and ensuring that fees and taxes paid are spent in support of the industry that pays them and are not used to balance the state’s budget (SB 454 – Sparks).
Fixing the Revenue Problem in our State Budget
Establishing a fund to replace the revenue from oil and gas extraction as that resource continues to diminish (SJR35 & SB610 – Sparks).
Stopping the 2018 trigger on the most recent short sighted, politically motivated tax cut and ensure no more tax cuts happen in this budget environment (SB 82 – Matthews).
Making Oklahoma Healthier and Expanding Access to Healthcare for Hard Working Oklahomans
Creating a paid family medical leave model for Oklahoma state employees (SB 736 – Floyd) where we can model the value in supporting Oklahoma families in a way that will encourage private industry to follow our lead.
Restoring Insure Oklahoma to pre-Affordable Care Act levels (new SB 805 in process – Sparks).
Expanding Criminal Justice Reform
Reducing unnecessary costs to state taxpayers by empowering the Pardon and Parole Board to parole prisoners who are 70 years of age or older and meet certain other public safety requirements (SB 185 – Floyd).
Supporting and Protecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us
Restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit to its previous refundable status for the lowest-income working Oklahoma families (SB 434 – Sparks).
Protecting survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking from certain landlord/tenant issues (SB 621 – Matthews).
Extending the statute of limitations on human trafficking (SB 249 – Pittman) and child sexual abuse or child sexual exploitation (SB 192 – Floyd) to protect Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children.
Passing a package of incentives and benefits for Oklahoma’s military families and veterans, including making 100% of military retirement pay exempt from state income taxes (SB 126 – Dossett) and extending reduced motor vehicle registration fees to military retirees (SB 125 – Dossett).