OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Senate is scheduled to convene Friday morning to consider revenue bills, one directly related to educational funding.
HB1019XX, also known as a marketplace fairness act or the so-called 'Amazon bill,' passed the House on Wednesday by an overwhelming vote of 92-7. It was originally announced on the floor that the Senate would consider the bill on Thursday, along with HB3375 or the 'ball and dice' bill.
However, Senate Majority leader Greg Treat said that was an "unintentional misunderstanding."
"We thought they [House] were going to use Senate Bill 337, to be honest with you, and we were going to be accept House amendments on that and move on down the road. For whatever reason, they chose to use House Bill 1019XX in Special Session," Treat said. "Pursuant to the Constitution, we have to have a second reading day. We can’t do a third reading today."
Teachers, including Prairie Vale Elementary School teacher Cassie Pierce, arrived early Thursday morning at the Oklahoma State Capitol, intending to hear a vote on that bill.
The 'Amazon bill' would collect sales taxes from online retailers like Amazon, dedicating $20 million to education.
"This crew that you see camped out, we have been here everyday 10 hours a day," Pierce said. "We were really happy Amazon passed yesterday, but we’re asking for it to be heard and passed in the Senate and we’re still saying, we’re still not quite there. We still need to see a few more additional revenue streams coming in not only for education but to help fund our state."
Treat told reporters Thursday the $20 million that would ultimately fund the $2.9 billion budget education which has already been passed, not add to it.
"It’s an additional $20 million dollars that will go to the 1017 fund which is appropriated by the Legislature, but it will go to the schools but it funds the $2.9 billion dollars that I already talked about," said Treat.
With respect to the teacher walkout, Sen. Kim David said it was important to run both bills on the same day.
"I think this group wants that package deal, so we’re just trying to accommodate that," David said.
Senate minority leader John Sparks, D-Norman said there are some lingering questions as far as how much money the 'ball and dice' legislation would bring in; however, it should still be supported.
"This is a competition issue with Louisiana, and people out of Dallas is the focus of this and we need to get this off high center and get onto bigger and better things," Sparks said. "We just need to move. This has been languishing far too long."
As for the 'Ball & Dice' bill, Treat said it's a "complicated issue".
"There is undoubtedly going to be a positive impact to the state budget if there is expanded gaming, because they will be able to capture more players. They’ll be able to capture some more marketplace from Louisiana since some Texans are going to Louisiana now or Kansas. I believe that data. I just can’t spend that money," said Treat. "That $22 million is split up already pursuant to compacts to the constitution and statue to where 88 percent of it goes to education and 12 percent of it comes to the Legislature, of which we can spend 95 percent of that money."
He also added, he does not anticipate any modifications to the education going forward.
"All I anticipate is that people have more assurance that the revenue we say is going to be there, will be there because what’s getting tied to the education budget and the general public is 1010 and 1011 which we passed last week," he said.
Sparks' opinion differed.
"We still have two months left. It may not be big modifications. hopefully we will have some, we still have some big education issues out there," Sparks. "So, to say that we’re done and just move on, I think he ignores the realities of what we’re dealing with."
The Senate is expected to convene at 8:30 a.m. Friday.