Education funding and policy a major focus of 2012 state Senate Interim Studies

A variety of important policy, spending and planning issues will be the focus of Interim Studies in the Oklahoma state Senate this summer and fall. President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, a Sapulpa Republican, gave the green light to a total of 27 interim hearings recently. Many of the anticipated meetings will focus on education policy. 

Assisted by Senate Education Committee staff, Senators John Ford of Bartlesville and James Halligan of Stillwater will guide Study 12-27, focusing on “all sources of funding for Oklahoma common education and develop comparisons to other states.” Sen. Ford will be joined by Rep. Lee Denney of Cushing for a Joint House/Senate study on “facility funding for charter schools.” (12-22)

Senate Interim Study 12-16, guided by Sen. Eddie Fields of Wynona, will examine the “feasibility and possibility of moving school board and municipal elections to odd numbered years.” Sen. Fields will also take the lead in a study of common school funding formulas.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski of Tulsa will lead 12-25, “creating administrative efficiencies and streamlining costs for schools with the goal of putting more money into the classroom.”

In the area of Higher Education and common education goals, Senator Rick Brinkley of Owasso will investigate (12-15) means for “funding the Oklahoma Innovation Institute’s Supercomputing Center – an initiative for the attraction of high impact jobs involving STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] education and entrepreneurship.” 

Higher Education and bonding authority may both be impacted as Senator Patrick Anderson of Enid develops the Pro Temp’s approval for Study 12-12, looking at “sources utilized for repayment of bonds issued under the Master Lease programs.” Anderson’s study 12-14 will look at “the need for repairs to, or complete replacement of, the building which houses the Medical Examiner’s Office.” 

Senator Anderson has a third meeting that will touch bonding issues. Study 12-13 will examine requested “repairs to buildings in the State Capitol Complex.”

Senators Ford and Halligan will also team up for study 12-9, to “investigate and identify potential enhancements for Career Techs & Community Colleges that will lead to the granting of additional certificates, certifications and Associate degrees.” This effort apparently dovetails with a policy initiative advanced by Governor Mary Fallin and the state Regents for Higher Education, to significantly increase the number of college graduates and certified professionals in the coming decade. 

Other studies of interest of include the Pro Temp’s own 12-11, looking at the effectiveness of energy industry incentives. 

Frank Simpson of Ardmore will guide Study 12-1, another in a series of legislative responses to controversy touching Oklahoma’s Veterans Centers. This study will examine the structure of the state Veterans Commission, staffing levels at centers, reports of abuses at those centers, and the role of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republicans will take yet another look at workers compensation, and a possible administrative system as an alternative to the state’s litigation-based allocation of resources, in Study 12-2. 

The Senate’s processes will be examined in Study 12-3, led by Republican Sen. David Holt of Oklahoma City. Holt will be looking at transparency issues, including “best practices” here and in other states.

Sen. Mark Allen of Spiro will look at truck weight enforcement and other issues. Brian Crain of Tulsa will lead the interim look at the Department of Human Services and the Pinnacle Plan. 

Democrats will also guide a handful of Senate interim hearings. Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City will look at the effects of Medicaid spending cuts on persons with complex disabilities (12-18), medical marijuana (12-19), high-cost lending (12-20), and the private prisons industry (12-21).  With state Rep. Anastasia Pittman of Oklahoma City, Sen. Johnson will lead 12-23, looking at rapid bridge building technology. 

Interim Study 12-26, led by Kim David of Porter, will look at code inspectors, municipalities and counties.