Thursday, April 11, marked the deadline for Senate committees to vote on bills sent over from the House. We have two more weeks before the April 25 deadline for floor votes on those measures.

One of the measures approved by the committee deadline was a bill to give teachers a $1,200 raise. Although the Legislature approved a historic teacher pay raise bill last year, we acknowledged at the time this was the first step toward increased investments in education. There have been different approaches discussed in the two chambers — whether the first step should be investing more dollars in the classroom through the funding formula or for additional teacher pay. Senate leaders have contended the two are not mutually exclusive — those negotiations will continue as both sides continue working on the fiscal 2020 budget.

This was National Crime Victims Week, and on Monday, the full Senate gave unanimous approval to a bill that was actually brought to the Legislature by family members of an Oklahoma woman named Francine Frost, who was abducted and murdered back in 1981. She went missing after a trip to do some grocery shopping. Her car was found in the parking lot, but she was never seen alive again. Two years after she went missing, remains were found in another county, but it was 35 years before they were positively identified as hers.

The legislation the family has championed is called Francine’s Law, and it basically would require law enforcement and the medical examiner to input all the evidence they gather in missing or unidentified person cases into a free, national database called NamUs. It can match DNA from unidentified remains with DNA samples provided from relatives of missing persons, helping solve both current and cold cases. This bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

We also approved legislation that will help with traffic stops when the person driving has a medical condition that could lead to communications problems with the officer. The legislation gives people the option to make information available when they get or renew their car tag so that law enforcement would be informed about medical conditions such as hearing impairment, autism or other conditions that could impair communications. Knowing that there is an underlying medical condition, such as a hearing issue or autism, would give that officer an important context for their interaction with that individual. The measure now goes back to the House for further review.

I am honored to serve you in the Oklahoma State Senate. If you have a question about a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 405-521-5541 or by email at mccortney@oksenate.gov.