Speaker Steele reviews advances for conservative policy agenda

Speaker of the House Kris Steele today (Thursday, March 31) expressed satisfaction with progress made toward advancing the conservative agenda Republicans promised to Oklahomans in last November’s election. 

 He pointed to several education reform measures that have moved forward in the House and Senate, including strict limits on “trial de novo” in teacher terminations, enhanced powers for the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, and changes in the makeup of the state Board of Education.
 Steele repeated his strong support for two lawsuit reform proposals that are now headed to the governor’s desk. 

 In his weekly encounter with reporters who work at the state Capitol, the Shawnee Republican said he would soon present additional details on the new conference committee structure he believes will improve transparency and openness in the legislative process. 

 He also discussed the decision of President Pro Tem Brian Bingman not to hear the health care exchange concept in its current form, House Bill 2130. That discussion was detailed in earlier stories today from CapitolBeatOK.

 Steele said the gap between legislators and Governor Mary Fallin over agency budget cuts was not insurmountable, and expressed cautious optimism that accord could emerge by mid-April. He restated his earlier view, the same as Bingman’s, that comparatively “protected” agencies may face 3-5% spending cuts, with the balance of the government in the 5-7% range. Fallin has sought to limit reductions to 3% for protected agencies, and 5% for the rest. 

 Responding to criticisms leveled by House Democrats as the April 1 deadline for “fund education first” comes and goes, Steele told reporters, “I believe it’s very important that we announce our education appropriations properly. Our goal is to announce it as soon as possible, to give the school districts that information.”

 CapitolBeatOK asked if it might be possible for the Legislature to pass a funding bill at 85-90% of anticipated spending, to allow schools and agencies to begin planning for the coming fiscal year. He said, “At this point, the thought may be that we’re getting close enough” that a final accord is nearing.