The Norman Transcript


January 30, 2013

Education funding will be in Capitol spotlight this session, lawmakers say



State Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, mentioned workers compensation reform and in-state tuition breaks. He said much of what the legislature does is “housekeeping,” fine tuning what was done the year before.

On workers’ compensation reform, Sparks said it’s become an annual chant from the state Chamber of Commerce.

“Every legislative session ends with the State Chamber declaring victory on worker’s comp even before the changes have a chance to take effect,” Sparks said.

He said the push for an administrative system rather than a judicial system has its drawbacks.

“I think we need to avoid making change just for change’s sake,” Sparks said.

State Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said she, too, is hearing education funding discussed more this year. “We’re talking about education funding more this time than in the last two years,” she said.

Funding the arts, too, is getting some attention after a bill was filed by a Tecumseh legislator that would eliminate $4 million in arts funding. That bill was sent to the Rules Committee and is not likely to make it out, lawmakers said.

“I feel like Norman is a huge recipient of Oklahoma Arts Council dollars,” Virgin said.

She said Gov. Mary Fallin’s rejection of an expanded Medicaid population in Oklahoma will hurt the state, sending federal tax dollars to other states and jeopardizing Oklahoma hospitals.

Virgin said she is working on legislation that would address teacher pay and the need for more special education teachers. She would also like to see lawmakers exempt groceries from sales taxes and work with federal policymakers on establishing a sales tax on purchases made online.

“I know it’s a federal issue but I feel like it’s also a local business issue that we need to address,” she said.

Newcomer Rob Standridge, elected to the state Senate to replace the term-limited Jonathan Nichols, said he was on a learning curve but had filed about 20 bills, many of which dealt with families and children.

Standridge, R-Norman, said he was concerned about entitlements taking much of public budgets. He wants to level the playing field for contractors who come into the state and underbid local contractors who are paying higher workers comp rates.




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