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‘In God We Trust’ measure passes Oklahoma Senate committee

OKLAHOMA CITY - Although lawmakers have yet to reach a budget for the current fiscal year, a few bills that have nothing to do with revenue are getting some attention.

After failing to reach a budget deal during a special session, lawmakers were called back to the Capitol to try again. Right now, the Legislature is in the middle of a regular session while the second special session runs concurrently.

Earlier this month, House Bill 1033, part of the 'Step Up Oklahoma' plan, failed to receive the necessary votes to move forward. The measure would have imposed additional taxes on tobacco, diesel fuel and wind energy. It would have also raised the gross production tax on all wells from 2 percent to 4 percent.

If passed, advocates say it would have raised roughly $20 million for the budget, and allowed for a $5,000 teacher pay raise.

Since it did not pass, lawmakers say they were forced to take drastic measures.

On Monday, representatives approved House Bill 1020, which would cut agency appropriations by roughly $44.6 million for the final three months of the FY 2018 budget.

"The House of Representatives has been discussing the Fiscal Year-2018 budget for well over a year now, and we are simply out of time to provide revenue to help those agencies avoid cuts," said House Speaker Charles McCall.

While revenue raising bills have received a lot of attention, a bill that doesn't deal with state funds is causing a few heads to turn after it was approved by an Oklahoma Senate committee.

On Monday, the Oklahoma Senate Committee on General Government passed Senate Bill 1016 with a vote of 6-4.

The measure, which was authored by Sen. Wayne Shaw, would require school superintendents and officials of state agencies  to place a poster of "In God We Trust" in school classrooms and public buildings that are maintained or operated using state funds.

In addition to the phrase, the poster would also include an accurate representation of the American flag and the Oklahoma State flag.

The measure states that it would only be implemented if funds are available. It adds that the posters "shall be purchased solely with funds made available through voluntary contributions to local schools or local school boards."

However, some are criticizing the bill as a distraction from real issues facing the state.

Now, the bill heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.