Prepare for the 2018 legislative session by reading up on what’s ahead.
The Oklahoma legislative session began February 5, and work has started on fixing the issues at hand. The major focus at the beginning will be on bills that are specifically marked Emergency. For example, Senate Bill 1 addresses a current issue with Oklahoma driver’s licenses. The federal government in 2005 issued the Real ID Act in an attempt to tighten laws concerning border security and worker visas. Full implementation has been pushed back for years as states attempted to ready themselves. The Oklahoma legislature originally rejected the bill in 2007, stating fears of information security for Oklahoma residents. At the Department of Homeland Security’s insistence, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the bill in 2017, allowing Oklahomans the choice of keeping their old IDs or choosing a new federal ID. The Oklahoma government has until October 2018 to hand out the new IDs.
Senate Bill 8, which provides a minimum salary schedule for all Oklahoma teachers, is also on the emergency list. The pay schedule will be based on years of employment and formal education or board certification. The lowest amount a full-time teacher can be paid (without a bachelor’s degree or previous experience) is $36,600. The teacher’s salary and benefits increase with higher education levels and teaching experience. The highest minimum salary of $51,000 is for teachers with a doctorate and 25 years of experience. Other laws, including SB15, with its focus on teacher recruitment programs, and SB16, which focuses on funding for schools, also made the emergency list.
Senate Bill 9 removes the ability to vote by party during elections. Voters in previous elections had the opportunity to vote for a singular political party and all of their votes would go to candidates who are filed under that specific party. Voters are now required to check their specific candidate of choice for each elected position on the ballot.
Both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate have members who will be required to leave after this session concludes due to term limits. In the House, 12 members will step down before the 2018 elections. In the Senate, there are six. Representatives serve two-year terms and can only have six terms throughout their entire careers. Oklahoma senators serve four-year terms and are only allowed three total terms.
2018 will also be a busy year for elections. In addition to several special elections, state general elections start June 26 and end November 6.
The legislative session began on February 5 and ends on May 25. There are 101 state house districts across Oklahoma, and each is allowed to elect one representative. The Oklahoma Senate has 48 districts and therefore 48 senators. However, currently both the Senate and the House of Representatives have a single vacant seat due to currently running special elections. By going to www.okhouse.gov and www.oksenate.gov, one can find their state representatives. In addition to this, one also can use www.openstates.org to identify their state representatives. Open States is a tool created by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit group based on government transparency, to explain current members in government as well as legislation.
To register to vote, one can download the application from the Oklahoma State Election Board website or receive a free physical copy at any local tag agency office. After filling in the proper info, mail it to the State Election Board at the address written on the application. The 2018 Oklahoma Senate elections include the primary on June 26, the primary runoff on August 28 and the general election on November 6.