The Legislative Digest is your weekly look at the happenings of Oklahoma’s state legislature and upcoming bills and the terms to know.
With a little less than two months left in the second regular session of the 56th legislature, Oklahoma’s lawmakers are making headway on key bills. Here are a few simple breakdowns of bills with a big impact.
HB3081: This bill, passed in the House and recommended to pass in the Senate Education committee, would formally espouse the restraint and subduing principles laid out by the Department of Education. The Department of Education says that restraining and subduing students should be used as a last resort, in cases where students pose a threat to others. School boards of education in Oklahoma would have to adopt the Department of Education’s principles on this matter if it passes in the Senate. Seclusion rooms have long been a source of contention in Oklahoma. Students and parents alike are skeptical of their efficacy, and there are reports that these punishments disparately affect students with disabilities.
HB2932: Among other things, this bill would establish a work requirement for people between aged 19 – 64 who receive Medicaid. They would need to work, volunteer or some combination of the two 20 hours a week or more in order to qualify for the health coverage. The bill provides exceptions, but exceptions will never cover all necessary circumstances. Call me a radical, but I believe that it should be a priority to ensure that all people can receive medical help if they need it. Their ability to get help shouldn’t depend on their ability to work (which often requires a car, time, the mental stability to keep said job and the physical health that can hold up to the work or qualify for disability). It shouldn’t depend on their ability to pay for healthcare, because if someone can’t pay for healthcare, they likely cannot afford a host of other helpful goods that would allow for a healthy lifestyle. Government insurance should create a meaningful healthcare floor, or it doesn’t fully serve its people. The bill was passed in the House and is currently in the Senate Appropriations committee.
SB1581: The Leave of Last Resort program would expand on leave sharing for state employees. It redefines who can get extra leave and how that process would work. Employees could opt in every year to participate in the program and donate whatever time they choose to the program. Among the most important changes, the bill would allow for paid parental leave. The bill walks a delicate line between the needs of the government (to function) and its employees (to live human lives with their human problems and disasters). While there’s still much to be desired in terms of incentivizing government work to create a scintillating bureaucracy, this is a great step. Employees need to apply to get donated hours and days, but they will be able to take time off for a greater number of reasons after they’ve exhausted their own allotted time off. It was engrossed in the Senate, and currently awaits its fate in the House Appropriations and Budget committee.