Legislation intended to effectively negate a state school board decision would create a new structure for charter schools, including a “building fund” financed by the existing medical marijuana tax.
“This is an issue that was dropped in our laps,” said Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, as he introduced a substitute to Senate Bill 229 in the House Common Education Committee on Tuesday morning.
“It was not a topic most of us were planning on addressing before session started. But issues pop up in this building, and we do our best to address them,” Hilbert said.
The new legislation was triggered by the State Board of Education’s 4-3 vote last week to settle a long-standing lawsuit with a charter school organization in such a way as to make tens of millions of dollars in local school taxes available to charter schools.
Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and the board’s attorney warned that the settlement likely violates state law.
Charter schools are public schools that operate under a different set of rules and that have not generally had access to public schools’ constitutional building fund millages.
Hilbert’s proposal says charter schools could not receive a portion of those funds but would establish a separate fund for brick-and-mortar charters. It also would set up each charter school as a “local education agency” whose enrollment and attendance would not be counted with its traditional school district.
Finally, the bill effectively would exclude virtual charter schools from receiving building funds.
“I have a hard time being convinced (that virtual schools) should get building fund money,” Hilbert said.
In essence, his legislation is beginning the process more than two months late. The bill’s title and enacting clause were removed Tuesday, meaning Hilbert expects considerable work on it before a final version is hammered out.
SB 229 passed out of the committee 14-0 and is now eligible to be heard on the House floor.
Another committee substitute, this one to SB 6, would make it easier to charge someone with accessory to murder.
The new law would be named for the late Tulsa Police Department Sgt. Craig Johnson and apparently was prompted by his slaying during a traffic stop last year.
Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, a former TPD officer, presented the new language and said it was requested by Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.
SB 6 passed the House Public Safety Committee 6-3.
SB 441, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would ban the use of cameras for monitoring traffic violations such as running stop lights.
SB 732, also by Dahm, would ban local ordinances related to guns and ammunition and would allow individuals “aggrieved” by such ordinances to receive compensation.
The House Elections and Ethics Committee voted to require earlier submission of applications for mail-in absentee ballots and to allow spouses to return mail-in ballots. It also advanced legislation authorizing the state to join a multistate voter registration database.
State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said the database would make identifying both potential voters and ineligible voters easier.
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