In this episode of Capitol Insider, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat speaks with Dick Pryor about the most pressing issues facing the legislature during the 2019 session, including retaining Oklahoma teachers, gun laws and state revenue. This is the first of a two part interview.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics and olicy. I'm Dick Pryor. Our guest is Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, Republican from Oklahoma City. Welcome.
Sen. Greg Treat: Thank you for having me.
Pryor: Good to have you with us. Several state agencies are asking for supplemental appropriations to get through this fiscal year. Their requests total more than 32 million dollars. Do you support fulfilling those requests right now?
Treat: Well the Senate has officially only received one request and that was from the courts. We've read the newspaper about other requests coming. We've got to evaluate each of those on its own merits. The court one, that we talked about, that we know, that's on our radar, both Chairman Thompson and I are trying to make sure we get that done.
Pryor: When you have some extra money you're going to hear from a lot of people.
Treat: Yes. Yes. December certification, the pre-certification as I call it showed $612 million extra dollars off of last year. We have a lot of ongoing obligations that will cut into that, but, yeah we have $3.5 billion, roughly, of new requests.
Pryor: A new report shows about 30,000 Oklahoma teachers have left the profession in the last six years. That's about 10 percent of the teacher workforce. The state so far this year has issued almost 3,000 certifications, emergency certifications. How do you propose to fix this problem that does not go away?
Treat: Well, I hope that some of the work we did last year on the nearly half a billion dollars in new revenue to education will help. But we also know it's not the only step, so we're going to make sure we keep that commitment. The emergency certifications are much more complex issue than most people realize. We have a teaching shortage around the entire country, not just Oklahoma. And when you dig down into some of the emergency certifications, again, this is anecdotal. It's not meant to be scientific in a way that I say this, but I've met teachers in my district that are emergency certified, but they were considered highly qualified teachers in Colorado or Kansas before they moved to Oklahoma. They just haven't gotten the proper paperwork in Oklahoma. I don't know what percentage of the emergency certified fit that bill. I think it's a pretty small percentage, to be honest with you, but we need to dig down deeper into that serious problem that the whole nation is having to tackle right now.
Pryor: There's a lot of time left, of course, but what would you see as a legislative solution this year?
Treat: Yeah I mean part of us is showing them respect. Part of it is an ongoing trend that well outdates any of the shortages we've talked about on budgets or anything like that. The profession typically loses more than other professions for a wide variety of issues, a wide variety. We're talking about, you know, the House has talked about a $1,200 teacher pay raise, as well as the governor. Inside of my caucus inside the Senate we've been talking a lot more about classroom funding and how do we get more money into the formula to be able to use it more flexibly in the classroom. So the solution isn't agreed upon yet, but we're definitely working to that end.
Pryor: The House of Representatives has passed a permitless carry gun bill, also called constitutional carry. Do you see any significant opposition in the Senate?
Treat: No. We passed it last year. There's a lot of new members. You know, 12 of 48 people have not cast a vote on that yet over here, but they will be quite soon. We will take that issue up. This vehicle that Senator Echols passed out of the House has pretty much status quo for higher ed, provides the same level of protection higher ed currently has. The presidents have to permit someone to carry on campus. That's been in existence for quite some time. It also allows for some private property rights, so if you own a business you can disallow guns however you want to. But an important part of this is that protects public venues that private entities use. Such as the Chesapeake Arena here in Oklahoma City, where you have NBA, NCAA tournaments, concerts. It affords a lot of protections in that area, and I expect that it will be well received in the Senate.
Pryor: Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, thank you very much for joining us on Capitol Insider.
Treat: Excellent. Thank you so much.
Pryor: If you have questions e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Twitter at @kgounews. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Until next time, I'm Dick Pryor.