The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (recently) released its 2019 Child Well-being Legislative Report Card. The Report Card tracks 25 key pieces of legislation related to the health and safety of Oklahoma children and rates lawmakers based on their voting record. The bills were selected by the Advocacy Committee for OICA.
Overall, the Legislature received a score of 85 – or a letter grade of “B.” Lawmakers were rewarded for passing a budget that included funding for more immunizations at county health departments and more services for children with disabilities. Other positive accomplishments included the restoration of a tax credit for families with foster children and the adoption of “healthy relationship” curricula in public schools.
The Legislature was penalized for failing to advance any bills supporting Medicaid expansion and failing to reinstate the refundability of the Earned Income Tax Credit. It also earned mixed marks on criminal justice reform; while lawmakers passed an important measure to make State Question 780 retroactive, thereby giving offenders with some drug-related prison sentences a chance at early release, other key measures stalled.
In the House, twelve representatives earned perfect scores, having voted “yes” on every measure with no missed votes, excused absences or “no” votes. They are Reps. Rusty Cornwell, Jim Grego, Ronny Johns, Lundy Kiger, T.J. Marti, Nicole Miller, Lewis Moore, Melissa Provenzano, Jacob Rosecrants, Danny Sterling, Mark Vancuren, and Tammy West. Seven senators received perfect scores with no absences or “no” votes, including Sens. Bill Coleman, J.J. Dossett, Tom Dugger, Chuck Hall, Julia Kirt, Ron Sharp, and George Young.
Legislators were not penalized for excused absences, as lawmakers are frequently called off the House and Senate floor for important meetings or events. Over 60 lawmakers received scores of 100 with one or more excused absence, on an OICA-priority vote.
We support many of the actions taken by the Legislature this year but hope lawmakers will act even more boldly in 2020.
While we were pleased with the positive direction of this past legislative session, we are eager to see many of the “big ticket” items move forward next year. At the top of that list is an Oklahoma Plan that ensures all children have access to affordable health coverage. We also need to take greater strides to reduce our nation-leading incarceration rate, which contributes to family separation and keeps children confined to poverty. I believe our lawmakers are up to this challenge, and I hope to see them build on their accomplishments this session and deliver more wins for Oklahomans next year.
Governor Stitt was scored based on whether he signed or vetoed key bills that reached his desk. While Stitt was supportive of almost all measures sent to him by the Legislature, his 96 (or “A“) score reflects his veto of a measure to update the HIV/AIDS education curricula in public schools.
OICA is particularly grateful for the governor and First Lady Sarah Stitt’s work to raise awareness of adverse childhood experiences that negatively impact children and follow them into adulthood.
Sarah Stitt has been a tremendous champion for early-childhood issues early in this administration, and we cannot thank her enough for taking on this challenge. If we alleviate many of these issues at an early age, that will in turn reduce incarceration rates, poor health outcomes and the high poverty levels we face as a state.
The full report card, which assigns each legislator a score, is available at: http://oica.org/2019-legislative-scorecard/.