Now that the committee process has been completed on House bills, the measures that gained committee approval are being heard on the House floor.

Because of the budget situation, we are considering ideas both big and small to save taxpayer dollars.

For example, House Bill 1666 would require groups requesting or sponsoring a highway or bridge sign to pay for it.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the state currently spends about $1,600 apiece for large signs on interstates and $400 per sign for those on other highways.

The measure was amended to exempt situations honoring military heroes killed in action and then passed 88-9.

Several measures taken up this week would increase protections for students and teachers.

House Bill 1461 strengthens the School Bullying Prevention Act by adding violent assault and battery, homicide and suicide to the list of behaviors that can be linked to bullying. It also addresses cyber bullying, which has increased with the growth of social media.

The bill was inspired by the May suicide of 11-year-old Ty Fields of Perkins, who killed himself after being bullied. While we cannot change human nature, we can clarify state law to give officials the power to intervene earlier and hopefully prevents similar tragedies in the future.

House Bill 1461 passed the House 74-23 and now goes to the state Senate.

Another bill approved this week would ensure money in the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System is preserved for educators.

House Bill 1648 eliminates a provision in state law that allows individuals who leave the teaching profession for a private sector job (specifically, those who work for a local, state or national education association) to continue to accrue increased benefits in the teachers’ retirement system.

Because union officials have the ability to build up retirement benefits through their private plans, it makes no sense to allow them to essentially “double-dip” into the teacher plan. The individuals involved would still get credit for any time they actually worked as a teacher, but they would no longer be allowed to accrue additional credit for work for private-sector entities.

House Bill 1648 passed the House on a 67-28 vote and now goes to the state Senate.

Another bill designed to protect young people also advanced this week.

House Bill 1211 would strengthen the penalties for “social hosts” provide alcohol or drugs to underage children. It was prompted by a case in Tulsa where a 16-year-old died of an overdose while adults supplied the drinks.

House Bill 1211 was approved by a vote of 98-0 and proceeds to the Senate for consideration.

As always, feel free to contact me at (405)557-7365 or write me at State Capitol Office 302A, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

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