This year’s legislative session, which has been called one of the best in years, focused on milestone achievements including major investments in classroom funding, a pay raise for teachers for the second year in a row, transformational government accountability measures, increased funding for criminal justice reforms, the passage of constitutional carry, and many other successes.
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 also allows the state to put $400 million into the Rainy Day Fund, which currently already has a balance of upwards of $480 million, in addition to saving another $200 million in a separate state savings account. This will ensure the state is properly prepared for an economic downturn without jeopardizing core services or being forced to take funding from other sources. We were also able to secure $29 million for a fund to preserve Medicaid provider rates during times of economic uncertainty.
Education got a significant boost, with $157.9 million in increased funding for public schools, with $74.4 million in new classroom funding and an average $1,220 pay raise for teachers. $18 million has been appropriated for CareerTech and another $28 million for higher education. We also passed Senate Bill 441 to increase classroom instructional time to benefit students.
On a more local level, I authored several key pieces of legislation which were recently signed into law by the governor, and in the coming weeks, I’ll discuss each one in more detail. One of the bills I authored, Senate Bill 435, came from an interim study I held last fall to dive deeper into healthcare and the unique challenges many face when it comes to Alzheimer’s, dementia or other cognitive impairments. The measure implements important steps to ensure the state’s elderly populations who deal with dementia or Alzheimer’s are being properly cared for. The bill, which was co-authored by Rep. Nicole Miller and Rep. Cyndi Munson, requires all Adult Protective Services specialists in DHS to undergo training to recognize individuals with cognitive impairment so they can effectively intervene in abuse or exploitation cases of people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. The measure goes into effect on Nov. 1, 2019.
Earlier this year, I was presented with a special Legislative Champion Award by the Oklahoma Alzheimer’s Association. It was an honor to be chosen for the award, as one of the most rewarding parts of my job as a senator is to identify ways to help others. Authoring Senate Bill 435 is just one way I could help make a difference in our community to ensure those who face Alzheimer’s, dementia or other impairments are better protected. I will continue to seek ways to ensure those who need assistance with cognitive challenges have access to quality care.