Senate Report from Chris Kidd April 26 2018

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 It’s no secret; education and its funding have been the focus and all-consuming issue this session. It’s much more than just a legislative issue, it’s a personal one.  The hundreds of Senate District 31 constituents who have visited my office over the last four weeks aren’t just constituents; these are the people we all do life with. People, who I go to church with, grew up with. They’re the ones who taught me in school. They are classmates, former students of mine and former colleagues. They are relationships I value.

But in addition to education, our rural nursing homes and hospitals, our mental health system, our intellectually and developmentally disabled population, our roads and bridges also need attention and funding. Two things I’ve learned serving as your senator: you elected me to ensure all areas of state government are running efficiently (without waste) and to make sure all areas of state government are properly funded.

Regarding state government inefficiencies, waste, and reforms:

Last session, new legislation was signed into law for the first time in state history requiring performance audits of the state’s 10 largest agencies every four years. (HB 2311)

In addition, we have cut 85% of the state’s agencies, 45% over the last decade. We’ve also reduced 7,000 state employees and consolidated or eliminated 18 agencies in that time.

Regarding proper funding of state government (education):

This session, the state legislature passed a bi-partisan education funding bill that included the following:

1. Teacher pay raises: $353.5 million

2. Support staff pay raises: $52 million

3. Text books: $33 million

4. Teacher Flex Benefits: $24.6 million

5. State Employee Pay Raise: $63.7 million

To put this into perspective, half a billion dollars (over $500 million) in new revenue was created for public education in an environment of tough political circumstances and a requirement of a three-fourths majority vote. What had not been accomplished in 30 years and what seemed to be impossible, was accomplished on March 26, 2018. This legislation provides the largest teacher pay raise in state history, moving Oklahoma to the second-highest in the region in average teacher pay.

We also passed HB 3705, which appropriates $2.9 BILLION, or a 19.7 percent increase overall in education funding. The bill includes a 22 percent increase overall to the State Aid Funding Formula, with $33 million line-itemed for textbooks and $17 million into the state aid formula. The revenue package also includes $63 million in tiered funding for state employee pay raises, and another $52 million for a $1,250 pay raise for education support staff.

What was accomplished with the passage of the above mentioned legislation is historic. Difficult decisions were necessary, and while our work in education is not done, I am proud of the strides we have achieved thus far.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

From the office of Senator Chris Kidd February 22 2018

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The third week of the regular session is underway. We have two more weeks of committee work on bills before we turn our attention to debate before the full Chamber.

This session, I filed nine Senate bills and three have already received committee approval.  SB 1364 authorizes the board of county commissioners to trade-in equipment to a vendor or on a statewide contract by acquiring used equipment values pursuant to state statute.

SB 1488 modifies the Wildlife Conservation Code to add a lifetime landowner hunting license for legal residents who have resided in the state for at least six months and intend to remain residents.  The price of the new lifetime license for 500 to 1,000 acres would be $50,000 and $75,000 for any tract of land over 1,000 acres.

SB 1492 relates to boiler inspectors and requires that deputy inspectors receive a valid National Board Commission within 24 months after appointment rather than 18.

In other legislative news, the Senate will be bringing back the state’s largest agencies for further budget hearings.  These agencies account for approximately 92 percent of the annual appropriated state budget.  Typically, only the appropriations subcommittees have budget hearings during the interim.  However, we thought that holding another round during session would allow more senators, the public and media to learn more about the various budgets and spending practices of the agencies. State revenues continue to rise, which is promising as we begin work for the upcoming budget.

This year, the Senate’s highest priority is the budget.  We must craft a responsible budget and seek reforms that provide budget stability and reduce reliance on one-time money.

Education and getting more dollars into the classroom will also be a priority.  We must find a way to fully fund a teacher salary increase, find efficiencies in our education system and also improve the funding formula.  This week, the State Aid Funding Formula Task Force will be meeting to discuss current and future legislation that may impact the formula.

The second special session is ongoing as well.  Last week was disappointing to say the least.  Once again, after the Step Up budget plan was approved by both the House and Senate Joint Committees on Appropriations and Budget, the plan failed to get super majority approval in the House.  The Senate never got a chance to vote on the measure even though we’ve already passed similar plans in the last few months.

Sadly, voting against the Step Up plan was a vote against raising teacher pay, funding for our health and human services, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and putting our state on a stable budget path forward.

Regardless of the plan’s failure, we are constitutionally mandated to balance the budget each year. This means we must move forward, and close the books on FY’18.

JCAB bills addressing the FY’18 cuts and necessary appropriations to help the health care agencies all passed last week and may be considered this week in the Senate.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

Shelby and Ryleigh Watkins serve as pages for Senator Chris Kidd

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Comanche High School senior, Shelby Watkins, and sophomore, Ryleigh Watkins served as Senate pages for State Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Waurika, during the tenth week of the legislative session from April 9 – 12, 2018. Shelby and Ryleigh are the daughters of Waurika residents Chris and Raquel Watkins.

Statement from Senate Democrats on Oklahoma Teacher Walkout

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OKLAHOMA CITY- Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks released the following statement on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus:

“Today the Senate Democratic Caucus welcomed thousands of educators, parents, students, and concerned citizens to the Capitol. We stand with them in their fight to properly fund public education in Oklahoma.

Paying our teachers a fair and competitive salary is a priority, but this movement is about more than just teacher pay, it’s about the chronic underfunding of public education in Oklahoma.

Over the last decade state funding for public education is down $180 million, marking a 28% cut. Since the 2013-14 school year, student enrollment has grown by 15,000 students but there are 700 fewer teachers in our public schools, with 20% of public school districts in Oklahoma moving to four day school weeks.

Our students deserve better. We need to restore funding for education which has been slashed by years of tax cuts. The legislature passed a revenue package last week, but more work needs to be done to provide sustainable revenues for education.

Last month the Senate passed SB 1086, bipartisan legislation to eliminate the capital gains tax loophole, which would bring in an additional $100 million in revenue for education. We urge the House to take action and pass the bill this week so we can make a serious investment in Oklahoma’s classrooms.”

Senate May Repeal Hotel Tax

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate will meet Friday to consider special session and regular session measures.

The Senate will meet in special session at 8:30 a.m. Friday to consider HB 1019xx, the marketplace fairness act or so-called “Amazon bill,” as well as HB 1012xx, a bill that repeals the “hotel/motel” tax that was originally included the $530 million revenue package (HB 1010xx) passed by the Legislature last week that completely funds the largest teacher pay raise in state history.

The Amazon bill is estimated to generate approximately $20 million and when added to growth revenue in the state budget more than makes up for the hotel/motel tax.

The Senate also will meet in regular session Friday morning to consider HB 3375, the so-called “ball and dice” bill.

Agendas can be viewed on the Senate website. Senate floor proceedings can be viewed via livestream.

NewsOK: Poll shows three-way tie in GOP gubernatorial primary

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Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett are in a three-way tie for first in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, according to a survey released Wednesday by Magellan Strategies.

The survey of 644 likely Republican voters showed 19 percent expressed support for Lamb; 19 percent for Stitt; and 17 percent for Cornett.

The automated voice recorded survey was conducted on April 18, 19 and 22, according to the Colorado-based company. The survey has a margin of error of 3.86 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

According to the survey, President Donald J. Trump has an approval rating of 80 percent in the state, while Gov. Mary Fallin’s approval rating is 20 percent.

Stitt is a Tulsa businessman running as an outsider. Cornett is the former mayor of Oklahoma City.

Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson received 12 percent in the survey; Yukon pastor Dan Fisher received 5 percent; and Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones received 5 percent.

The undecided was 23 percent.

The primary election is set for June 26, with the run-off primary scheduled for Aug. 28.

Previous polls this year have shown Cornett and Lamb as the frontrunners, with Stitt in third and very high amount of undecided voters.

Bill aimed at boosting state’s second largest industry

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to boost the state’s second largest industry, the aerospace industry.  House Bill 2578, by Sen. Paul Rosino and Rep. Tess Teague, would create the Aerospace Commerce Economic Services (ACES) program under the Department of Commerce.  The ACES program is based on similar business models from other states that have proven to have substantial economic impacts.

“The aerospace industry in Oklahoma is a $44 billion industry and utilizing ACES proven organizational structure and methodology is estimated to further grow the industry to $50-$60 billion annually,” said Rosino, R-Oklahoma City.  “This focused initiative will help drive further job creation, economic growth and increased tax revenues for our state.”

HB 2578 would create a partnership of service providers to more effectively respond to the needs of the aviation, aerospace and defense industries in the areas of education and training, research and economic development.  A panel would be formed, chaired by the Governor to facilitate Oklahoma agencies, industry, academia and other key stakeholders in creating and aligning goals.

ACES would build on the success of its precursor, the Center of Aerospace and Defense Supplier Quality (CADSQ) ran by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC).  A 2015 Economic Impact Study found that CADSQ created $72 million in new business and had a $237 million state economic impact.  The OAC invested $2 million in CADSQ, which produced $9.7 million in new taxes for the state.

“The aerospace industry has tremendous momentum right now and we must keep that going. The previous business model used by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission provided a five to one or 517 percent return on the state’s investment and ACES will help produce even more growth in Oklahoma’s economy,” said Rosino. “Having a strong business strategy will help the aerospace industry continue growing by being able to better utilize available resources for the recruitment of specific targeted businesses that have production and sustainment capabilities.”

HB 2578 will now go before the full Senate.

From the State Senate

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It was an honor to have served the people of District 31 in my first session with the Oklahoma State Senate.  People who have worked in or around the Capitol for the last several decades said that this was by far the most difficult budget year they’ve seen.  As the state continues its way out of three years of revenue shortfalls, the legislature had the task of closing a nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall.  Past legislatures had depended strongly on the use of one-time monies to avoid having to raise revenues, but we took the difficult stance of strengthening our state’s budget and ensuring future stability by creating new sources of revenue.

After much debate and compromise, the legislature finally approved a $6.8 billion budget.  I’m proud of my Senate colleagues for their willingness to do what was best for our more than 60 state agencies so that they can continue to provide vital state services.  Constituents often call me to discuss budgetary matters, focusing on one state agency.  However, I have found one of the most challenging parts of serving in the Senate is not having the luxury of meeting the budgetary needs and requests of one or two agencies. We’re responsible for appropriating funds to all 67 of our state agencies, and this year we had very little to give.

At the beginning of session, budget leaders warned agencies that to fill the budget hole cuts of 15-20 percent might be required; and you have to remember that some agencies have already been cut up to 50 percent in the last decade.

I’m pleased to say that the budget protects our schools, public health, human services, and safety as well as corrections.  We were able to provide additional funding to common education by running a trailer bill (HB 2360), which provided an additional $18 million from the Rainy Day Fund and held education flat.  This bill was an agreement between the Senate and House to keep the school funding formula at the same level as FY ‘17 in spite of the nearly $1 billion shortfall.  The remaining state agencies received on average of a less than five percent cut to their budgets.

Progress was made to correct structural problems that have existed for years in the budget.  The Senate approved several measures that will provide new revenue for our state for years to come.  Among other measures, we created $95 million by raising the Gross Production Tax (GPT) on “1 percent” wells to 4 percent; $46 million by eliminating oil and gas GPT rebates; $15 million from increased tax enforcement; and $9 million from changes approved for long-lateral drilling.  We also will save the state millions of dollars in future budget years by accelerating the sunset date of the wind tax credit.

We approved a tobacco cessation program with the intent of saving lives and improving the health of Oklahomans by encouraging people to quit smoking, especially children.  The program will be funded by a $1.50 per pack fee for cigarettes that’s expected to generate around $215 million. This will also help lower our state’s healthcare costs significantly of which tobacco contributes billions in unnecessary expenses to taxpayers annually.

This is a responsible, practical plan that generates new revenue for this year and beyond, protects education, DOC and DHS while also implementing reforms to address chronic budget shortfalls.
Besides working on the budget, we approved legislation to strengthen the state’s education system, protect the health and safety of our youth, provide further assistance to our veterans, strengthen our criminal justice system and ensure that Oklahoma IDs meet federal REAL ID requirements.  I’ll discuss these areas in the coming weeks.
In closing, I was honored to carry the nomination of Ervin Randle of Lawton to the Oklahoma Motor Vehicle Commission succeeding Dan Mullins.

We want to thank Cache junior, Dalton McDonald, for serving as a page during the next to last week of session.  This month has been extremely busy so his assistance was greatly appreciated and we hope he learned a lot about his state government and the legislative process.
We also want to thank everyone from the district who made the trip to Oklahoma City this year and stopped by to visit with us.  We truly appreciate your support and input and for sharing your successes and special events with us.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

From the office of Sen. Chris Kidd

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As many of you know, state budgets for the last few years have been deficient resulting in drastic cuts, revenue failures, and budget shortfalls. The last year and a half, we have worked tirelessly to correct Oklahoma’s budget. This is not an easy fix but a multi-faceted approach. This past year, we have made tremendous headway in putting Oklahoma on a firm foundation.

One area we focused on in correcting the budget was our state agencies.  By passing several budget limit bills, we now have more legislative oversight of agency spending to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly and efficiently. 

At the same time we were focusing on efficiencies, we were also giving our attention to revenue that’s sustainable and long term. The votes I had to cast to provide more revenue were by no means easy, even painful at times. As difficult as it was, those votes resulted in much needed recurring revenue into the state’s budget.

With the appropriation reforms and revenue-raising measures my colleagues and I passed this session, we can now properly fund our government with no agency cuts in the FY’19 budget. Things are beginning to turn around for Oklahoma.

The Treasurer’s office announced this week that gross receipts for April were up 15% over last April. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) reported that March General Revenue Fund collections were $405.5 million, an increase of 15.2 percent above March 2017 collections. In addition, gross receipts have shown continual growth for the last 13 months. Moody’s, one of the nation’s top credit-rating agencies, also issued a credit-positive report for Oklahoma earlier this month.

Most notably, lawmakers passed legislation raising salaries for all teachers, support staff and most state employees, impacting thousands of Oklahoma families with increased compensation for their service to the state. 

With the hundreds of bills and issues we tackled, this past session was difficult to say the least, but progress was made.  There’s always more that can be done and now session is over, and as we go into the interim, we will continue working to put Oklahoma on a firm foundation.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

Senate approves bill requiring immediate reporting of child abuse

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OKLAHOMA CITYOn Thursday, the Senate gave unanimous approval to legislation modifying child abuse reporting requirements.  House Bill 2259, by Rep. Dell Kerbs and Sen. Ron Sharp, requires individuals, especially educators, to report suspected child abuse or neglect of those 17 years or younger immediately to the DHS Child Abuse Hotline and those 18 years or older to law enforcement.

“Current law advises people to reports suspected abuse and neglect ‘promptly’ but this term is obviously getting misinterpreted as many cases aren’t being reported for several days or weeks after it’s discovered,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee.  “As a former educator, I’m glad that the bill specifically requires teachers to report suspected abuse and neglect as these are the people who spend the most time with these kids and can recognize changes in behavior or see evidence of abuse.  For most kids, schools are safe zones and they trust their teachers and often open up about violence in their home.  Hopefully, this change will help protect more of Oklahomans children and get them away from bad situations.”

HB 2259 was requested by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education. Under Oklahoma statutes, “teachers” include administrators, counselors and classroom instructors.

“I’m pleased to have authored this measure that will put a clear and transparent law into place to ensure children who are abused or neglected will have immediate help,” said Kerbs, R-Shawnee.

HB 2259 now goes to the Governor for final consideration

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