Rep. Sterling: Legislature considers important bills

Rep. Danny Sterling

This is a summary of some of the more impactful bills that has passed through various stages of the legislative process.

The Redbud School Funding Act, SB 229, would keep local ad valorem dollars with traditional public schools and not be sent to charter schools. That issue came about after the State School Board recently settled a 2017 lawsuit that would have allowed local dollars to go to charters.

The State Board’s decision helped bring parity for students enrolled in charter schools, but at the cost of reducing funds to traditional public schools. If unchanged, the decision would shift tens of millions of local property tax dollars away from traditional public schools and into public charter schools.

Instead, lawmakers created SB229, which would use medical marijuana taxes and the Common School Building Equalization Fund to meet the building needs of brick-and-mortar public charter schools, which are not allowed to bond and which receive less per-student funding that traditional schools. The Redbud School Funding Act proposes to bring parity without the negative impact to other districts.

The bill fixes funding disparities and ends the uncertainty the Board of Education’s legal settlement created. A majority of school districts will receive more funding under the Redbud School Funding Act without taking funds from one type of school to fund another. While the board’s decision benefited charter schools at the expense of traditional schools, this bill benefits all schools in a constitutional, equitable manner we expect will find broad support.

The act also will help our rural schools. It directs the State Department of Education to use this money to issue annual per-student funding grants to public schools in low property value areas. There are 334 such districts throughout the state that could benefit from these grants.

HB2183 allowing for state, county and municipal government agencies to utilize third-party examiners for commercial driver’s license (CDL) exams and other similar tests has been signed into law. It is hoped the change would allow Oklahomans to receive licenses in a more timely fashion. This is common-sense legislation that will hopefully help to clear up our backlog so people get their driver’s licenses or renewals without further delay.

SB 947 would require initiative petitions to indicate if the proposed measure will have a fiscal impact on the state, and if so, list the potential funding source. A declaration of fiscal impact and potential funding source information would need to be clearly listed on petitions seeking signatures to bring state questions to a vote of the people.

Oklahoma voters certainly need to be aware of the potential fiscal impact for any measure on which they are asked to vote. This bill helps provide transparency in the petition process and helps the voters know exactly what they are voting on and if there may be a cost to them.

The measure expands the word limit for a ballot title on an initiative petition to 300 words if the proposed measure has a fiscal impact on the state. Currently, ballot titles are limited to 200 words.