From the Desk of Sen. Zack Taylor
There are two more weeks to work on House bills in committee, and for that reason, the agendas are full. This week the Senate went through 100 House bills in committee. Next week, we will begin to hear those bills on the Senate floor. Behind the scenes, the State Legislature is working on the FY’22 budget. Committee chairs and the chairman of the appropriations subcommittees are continually meeting with their counterparts in the House to discuss numbers and decide on the best way to move forward. Also, in the process of monitoring the most recent stimulus package and its impact on our state. Under the American Rescue Plan, Oklahoma will receive nearly $6.4 billion in relief funds.
On Thursday, we heard SR 8, which I co-authored, recognizing the value of Oklahoma’s great outdoors to our state’s economy, recreation, heritage, and quality of life, as well as encouraging continued supporting to boost this critical part of our state’s economy.
This week, I presented four House bills in committees—all of which were approved. One of those was HB 2078, which I’ve joined Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, in authoring to modify the state school funding formula. Under the current system, districts’ initial allocation of funds is based upon the higher of the previous two years’ enrollment. While the mid-year adjustment is based upon the higher of the previous two years or the first nine weeks. If the district sees a significant increase in enrollment, it won’t receive full funding for those students. This is because the students can be double, or even triple, counted at each school they attended in the two-year time period. During the last school year, around 55,000 students were counted multiple times.
This leaves some schools receiving less per student than they should be getting. Districts losing students receive more funding than they should because they can continue claiming their highest enrollment while the growing districts are short-changed. HB 2078 is an effort to modernize this outdated funding system by changing the initial allocation to last year’s enrollment and the mid-year adjustment to the higher of the previous year’s enrollment or the first nine weeks.
This change will be even more important given that it appears the legislature will finally be approving a true open transfer policy allowing families to decide where to send their kids to school rather than being restricted by their zip code and district boundaries. Not only is this going to ensure that funding follows the student, but it’ll also force districts to work harder and be more innovative in meeting the unique needs of their students to keep them and their funding.
The bill passed its first legislative hurdle in the Senate by receiving approval in the Finance Committee and will next be heard in the Appropriations Committee.
Senate Pro Tem Treat has appointed me to serve on the Energy & Environment Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of the Council of State Governments (CSG). Established in 1947, SLC is a member-driven organization and the largest of the four legislative groups operating under CSG. It includes 15 states, which together share how they’ve addressed legislative issues and what has and hasn’t worked.
This week the Republican Caucus and Future Caucus met for discussion. The Oklahoma Primary Care Association updated the Rural Caucus about vaccines and mental health telemedicine. We had a joint Freshmen Legislator Luncheon, and the Freshmen Senators also had another meeting. The Chair of Business, Commerce, and Tourism and I met with the Independent Finance Institute. My meetings from Wednesday consisted of NAIFA Oklahoma, Education Secretary nominee Ryan Walters, a great asset for our State, and Blue Cross Blue Shields to learn more about managed care. Lastly, my legislative week ended with a zoom meeting with the Pottawatomie County Superintendents to discuss the session and education bills.
I want to remind everyone that there will be another Legislative Breakfast on Friday, April 9, and it will be located at the Route 66 Interpretive Center in Chandler from 8-9 am. This event is open to everyone in the district. As always, please check my Facebook page for a schedule of upcoming meetings.
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Zack Taylor, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 446, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (405) 521-5547.