A House of Representatives committee passed a measure Wednesday repealing a law that makes insulting someone's religion a crime, but failed to support an effort to repeal a law that requires lawmakers to come up with a budget for public schools by April 1.
House Bill 1091, by Rep. Randy Grau, failed to advance out of the House Administrative Rules, Government Oversight and Repealer Committee. It failed on a tie vote of 5-5.
The measure would have repealed a 2003 law that requires the Legislature to pass the budget for kindergarten-through-grade 12 schools no later than April 1, a deadline that was met just once.
Republicans, then in the minority, pushed for the law in 2003. The Fund Education First Act, a self-imposed statute, was met only in 2004, the last year Democrats controlled both the House and Senate. There's no penalty for legislators if the deadline is missed.
The deadline is 10 days earlier than the old deadline for schools to have teacher contracts in place; legislation passed in 2009 moved that deadline to the first Monday in June. Lawmakers adjourn in late May. Public schools make up about one third of the legislatively appropriated budget, or about $2.3 billion of this fiscal year's $6.8 billion budget.
“The whole purpose of having that April 1 budget deadline no longer exists,” he said. “It's impractical to carve out such a large chunk of your budget … and try to handle that totally separately.
“Part of my goal is to get rid of unnecessary laws,” he said.
Grau, R-Edmond, had better luck with HB 1088. The measure, which passed 6-4, would remove blasphemy as a misdemeanor.
The existing law adopted in 1909 is outdated, he said.
“I am not pro-blasphemy,” Grau said. “I'm for everyone to freely exercise their religion. But that law prohibits the free exercise of religion as well as free speech. Under that law, you could be convicted of a misdemeanor for making fun of another person's religion. Now, again, I don't support going around disparaging other people's religion, but it's not a crime.”
Committee members also passed HB 1562, which would remove language from the Water for 2060 Act that sets long-term water management goals for the state.
Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, author of HB 1562, said his measure would leave intact the use of an existing Oklahoma Water Resources Board grant program to pay for pilot projects to help residents and water districts improve water conservation practices.
HB 1562 passed 9-1. It and HB 1088 now go to the full House.