Oklahoma House to reconsider student corporal punishment bill
A bill that would prohibit corporal punishment of students with disabilities failed in the Oklahoma House, but the author plans to bring it to the floor again on Monday.
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Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider taking you inside politics, policy and government in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Lawmakers took a couple of extra days off for spring break. The house resumes Monday morning. The Senate returns Monday afternoon. Shawn, a notable bill is expected to come up in the House. It failed on Tuesday but illustrates a legislative rule that allows bills that fell short of the votes needed for passage to come up for consideration again. That bill concerns corporal punishment.
Shawn Ashley: Representative John Talley served what is called a notice of reconsideration for House Bill 1028, which prohibits the use of corporal punishment for public school students with disabilities. Now, there were more votes for the bill Tuesday than there were against it. But a bill must receive 51 votes to pass, so it failed 45 to 43. Since it was spring break week, a number of members were absent. Now, about that notice to reconsider. A House member has three legislative days, including the day they served the notice to ask that the bill be put up for another vote. So that first day was Tuesday and the House met briefly on Wednesday but took up no bills. So that was the second day. That means Representative Talley will have to exercise his notice on Monday and he must get at least half the votes who were absent or convince some of those who voted against the bill Tuesday to change their votes in order for it to pass.
Dick Pryor: Oklahoma lost out to St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada for a Volkswagen electric vehicle battery plant. The state was providing an incentive of almost $700 million to lure Volkswagen to the Mid-America Industrial Park in Pryor. What happens to the incentive money now?
Shawn Ashley: The legislature amended the LEAD Act earlier this year, reducing the number of employees a firm had to hire over five years in order to qualify for the incentive as a way to further attract Volkswagen to come to Oklahoma. In that bill was a provision that says if the state does not sign a contract with the company to participate in the incentive program by April 15th, the money will be transferred to the General Revenue Fund. From there, lawmakers will be able to appropriate it however they wish. Keep in mind, lawmakers and the governor already have more than $1 billion carried over from previous fiscal years, and the current year’s collections are expected to exceed the estimate by more than $1 billion. Some of which will go into the Rainy Day Fund. That means they will have close to $3 billion in cash to spend, which legislative leaders and the governor have said they would like to see dedicated to one-time expenditures rather than recurring costs they would have to fund in future fiscal years when those funds might not be available.
Dick Pryor: Governor Stitt and eighteen other governors have issued a statement supporting a federal bill to prevent pension fund managers from basing investment decisions, at least in part, on environmental, social and governance policies referred to as ESG. There is political hyperbole in the statement, but the governors want investment firms to focus on financial returns rather than social policies. Several bills addressing ESG are alive in the legislature now, and one became law last year. What's behind the state government interest in ESG?
Shawn Ashley: Well, I guess you could say that in Oklahoma's case, they have nearly 40 billion reasons to be concerned. That's roughly the combined balance of the state's pension funds, which are largely invested in stocks and bonds. Ultimately, the bills tell companies how they're going to operate if they're going to do business with the state of Oklahoma with our pension funds. Under the legislation passed in 2022 and signed into law, for example, investment firms and banks cannot have policies that oppose the fossil fuel energy industry. The handful of bills this year are more broad and say firms must focus exclusively on the bottom line - those investment returns - and not try to use those investments which are taxpayer funds to pursue social policies.
Dick Pryor: What's ahead for lawmakers over the next few days?
Shawn Ashley: Thursday is a big deadline. It's the deadline for bills to be heard on the floor of their chamber of origin. That means House bills need to be heard in the House and Senate bills need to be heard in the Senate if they're going to continue to work their way through the legislative process. There are more than 200 bills available for consideration in each chamber. Some of those are controversial, so it looks like it will be a busy week.
Dick Pryor: Thank you, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. For more information, go to QUORUMCALL.online. You can find audio and transcripts at KGOU.org and listen to Capitol Insider where you get your podcasts. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.
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