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April 28, 2011

05/06/11 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome

            I hope everyone had a great Easter.  Thankfully, Oklahoma received some much needed rain. 

            Unfortunately, at the State Capitol our priorities are not always in the right place, and this is no more evident than in the fact that the Legislature continues to violate a state law that was passed five years ago.  We have a law that requires the Legislature to fund education by April 1.  We have not done so, yet the House leadership is taking Thursday off to go on a golf outing with lobbyists in Arizona.  We need to stay on task and do what you, the people, sent us to the Capitol to do, and that is to complete your business.

            Meanwhile, we continue to pass some very contentious legislation.  SB 398 by Steve Martin (R-Bartlesville) prohibits unsolicited telemarketing text messaging.  This is one of those bills that sounds good in theory, but there is no way for Oklahoma to enforce out of state texts from telemarketers.  However, Rep. Martin can go home and report what he did for his constituents with the bill.

            I do not report on a great many of the education bills that are passed; but, folks, we are passing a large number of education bills patterned after the State of Florida.  SB 2 by Ann Coody (R-Lawton) establishes a graduation rate indicator for an academic performance index.  This is not all bad, except that our new Superintendent of State Instruction has the authority to set goals, and this legislation requires a school to reach a goal of 100%.  This may be good in theory but is a farce in reality.  Those not reaching these goals must file a graduation improvement plan, and this will also affect that school?s overall A, B, C, D, F grade on which I reported earlier.  This will also affect our local districts? funding. 

I asked Rep. Coody if SB 2 will take into consideration the socioeconomic differences of school districts.  The answer is ?no.?  Folks, I have some schools with 92% overall free and reduced school lunches vs. some schools that have a 5% overall free and reduced school lunch rate.  For those of you not in the ?school business,? families that qualify for ?free and reduced? are living at the poverty level.  So a school district in House District 17 that has 92% of families living at the poverty level will be evaluated exactly as those school districts that have only a few families in the lower income level.  This is not a fair way to evaluate our local schools? performance, which will ultimately hurt our children.

            On top of all this, we just received our National Education result for 2010. Guess what!  The overall graduation rate in the U.S. is 73% with Oklahoma at 78% and Florida at 64%, and we are patterning ourselves after the Florida plan.  It is going to be very interesting to see where we are sitting five years from now.

            Now for a really horrible education bill:  SB 260 by Lee Denney (R-Cushing) allows charter schools to issue bonds or participate in bonds issued on their behalf.  When questioning the author on who would be responsible for the bond if a charter school went under or bankrupt, she stated that it would be the responsibility of the school board that applied for these bonds.  I just wonder if the school board of the charter school will be advised of this personal liability.  Also, this legislation states that the ?charter school sponsoring board shall meet at the call of the chair,? which is a clear indication that they are exempt from the Open Meeting Act.  This is bad public policy.  I say this because I am a big proponent of Oklahoma?s open meeting and record laws.

            I am House author of SB 637, which is the dog breeder bill.  The language in this bill came about as a compromise between dog breeders and the Pet Quality Assurance Board.  It creates a toll free hotline for reporting of abused animals.  It also keeps the Board from hiring Humane Society members as inspectors and allows dog breeders to use their veterinarians as inspectors.  Tuesday?s Floor debate was interesting in that the final bill was not language I came up with, but rather language compromised between the breeders and the board.  I had a very difficult time explaining this to the Legislature.  They were looking for a ?woolybooger? in the bill.  I swear I think I could have explained it to a class of fifth graders in less time.  After an hour of questioning and some debate, the bill passed 90-5. 

If you will notice, I did not call this a ?puppy mill? bill.  That term is a very derogatory term, and a lot of people associate that name with anyone who raises dogs. This is simply not true.  An overwhelming number of people who raise dogs love their dogs as much as you and I.  Because of that, I agreed to carry this legislation in the House.  Believe me, folks; carrying this legislation was not on my bucket list. 

The fear of the unknown is what drives opposition to a lot of legislation, and this was no more evident than when three weeks ago, a humane group out of Oklahoma City came to McAlester and bought an $800 ad saying that I was protecting people who are raising animals in filth.  Very simply, they didn?t have the decency to ask me what my intentions were with SB 637.  Just think how many animals could have been spayed or neutered for $800.  This is the one complaint that I have with national humane groups.  They collect money showing starved, neglected pets and then use the money for political purposes, rather than on animals.  I want you to know this is not the case in our local PAWS organizations, and for this reason, I would highly recommend that if any of you are currently donating to any national humane organizations, please direct those funds to your local PAWS group because they will spend all of it on the animals.

My door is always open to you.  I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work for you as your State Representative.  Please feel free to contact me anytime by regular mail, House of Representatives, 504 State Capitol, Oklahoma City, OK 73105; or by email brian.renegar@okhouse.gov; or on our toll free number 1-800-522-8502.

It was good to see Mike Coniglia and Rodney Leamy from the McAlester Fire Department here in the office this week.

 

Phillipians 1.

 

 

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Weekly update from Oklahoma City on the status of Bills in the House.

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