OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma lawmakers are two weeks down with the 2023 legislative session and major pieces of legislation are moving quickly through the chambers.
BANNING GENDER AFFIRMING CARE
Governor Kevin Stitt said that he would sign any piece of legislation regarding a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.
Senator Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, authored SB 613 that would make it illegal for doctors to perform surgeries and prescribe hormone treatment and puberty blockers.
Within a week, the bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee and then passed through a Senate floor vote on Monday.
It will now head to the House to be heard in committee.
NEW EDUCATION PLAN FROM HOUSE GOP
Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, released his plans to boost funding for public school education.
It would be a total increase of $500 million: (HB 2775)
- $300 million would go to school districts for their discretion
- $150 million would go to $2,500 teacher pay raises across-the-board
- $50 million would go to disadvantaged districts that earn below-average funding from local tax revenues
The second part of McCall’s plan is called the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit. (HB 1935)
Parents would get to claim a tax credit, up to $5,000, with the Oklahoma Tax Commission for expenditures on private school. There is also $2,500 tax credit for parents of homeschool kids.
Here is a list of qualified expenses:
- tuition and fees at a private school accredited by the State Board of Education or another accrediting association
- tuition and fees for nonpublic online learning programs
- tutoring services provided by an individual or a private tutoring facility
- services contracted for and provided by a public school district, public charter school, magnet school (+classes and extracurricular activities and programs)
- textbooks, curriculum, or other instructional materials
- fees for nationally standardized assessments
- tuition, and fees for concurrent enrollment at an institution within The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education
The Oklahoma Tax Commission has not confirmed yet if it will have the resources to handle an increased number of tax credit filings.
GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT SPEAKS TO THE MEDIA
Over the last several months, Joel Kintsel, Executive Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs has feuded with Governor Stitt’s appointed Veterans Commission. The commission is the body that hires and fires the executive director. Kintsel and the commissioners have been at odds with a $22 million cost, which has to do with damages involved with a Sallisaw construction project.
Kintsel avoided the last several meetings with the Veterans Commission, accusing the commission of being illegitimate. Last week, AG Gentner Drummond agreed that three members were appointed “unlawfully.”
On Friday, the Governor addressed the situation.
“You’ve got a rogue agency director that’s not showing up to meetings, that’s not listening to the legislature. There’s nobody in charge,” said Stitt, later saying that he would act if given the option.
“If they gave me the authority, I would fire the guy tomorrow,” said the Governor.
RESPONSE TO HOUSE GOP EDUCATION PLAN
Governor Stitt released his own ideas for education reform during his State of the State address. He wants to see an Education Savings Account established so parents have choice in their child’s education.
Stitt applauded the idea of empowering parents with the tax credit plan.
“Not every kid learns the same way. Let’s empower parents.”
RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA: “I think it’s a bad idea”
When asked about the upcoming vote for recreational marijuana, Governor Stitt said that he will not be supporting the petition.
He said the federal government needs to decide on that issue.
Stitt supports medical marijuana because it provides relief for those that need it, but says, “I think marijuana is bad for young people.”