By Rep. Scott Fetgatter
Today legislators will arrive, and the 56th Oklahoma Legislative Session gets underway. There are many issues that representatives will be forced to deal with before the first half of this session ends in May. FetgatterMore than 1,000 bills were filed before the January filing deadline. Representatives are allowed to run eight pieces of legislation. It is important for people to understand that most of these bills will never make it out of committee and even fewer will become law.
On the forefront of the minds of many of my colleagues and of Oklahomans is approving legislation that will update our state IDs so that they are compliant with federal law. Teacher pay is also an issue that must be addressed. These things, among others, will have to be accomplished while also figuring out how to navigate through a state budget that has a funding shortfall of nearly $900 Million.
The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005. The act established minimum security requirements for government issued IDs. Currently, Oklahoma’s driver’s licenses and identification cards don’t meet the federal minimum. Not meeting this standard will keep Oklahomans from being allowed to fly, visit a government facility or military base. Fortunately, the state has been given a temporary exemption. However, this exemption will eventually expire, and it is paramount that we act now.
Several bills have been filed to address teacher pay. In the coming days, I expect lively debate around how much to increase pay, how to increase pay and how to ensure that the pension funds remain solvent. In the same vein, there will also be much discussion about how we can responsibly increase funding in our school system.
The biggest challenge of this session will without a doubt be the $900 Million shortfall in our state budget. On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin will unveil her plan for addressing the shortfall. Then, the House will examine her plan and offer recommendations or an entirely different plan. I expect this process to be tedious but necessary. At the moment, the only plan regarding the budget that I can commit to is my plan to keep you informed on the developments in this process each week.
As always, I consider it a great joy in life to serve you in the Oklahoma Legislature. If you have questions, concerns or feedback, please reach out to my office at (405)557-7373.