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Bill to change Oklahoma's college scholarship program advances

Oklahoma House Democrats didn't get enough Republicans to join them to oppose lowering the cap on the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: March 5, 2013

House Democrats came up short Monday in their attempt to kill a bill that would lower the income cap on the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program for low-income students.

Over a period that lasted more than two hours, Democrats accused Republicans of penalizing the college scholarship program by cutting its funding while at the same time seeking personal income tax cuts that would result in the state losing nearly 10 times that amount in revenue.

Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, the author of House Bill 1721, countered that her intent is to ensure the program does indeed serve low-income families.

HB 1721 would change the income requirements on the scholarship program, lowering the income cap for the families of students entering college on the scholarship from $100,000 to $60,000.

Families of the eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade students can make no more than $50,000 when the student initially qualifies for the program.

The measure passed 56-37. It now goes to the Senate.

Democrats on the House of Representatives floor got agitated when Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, successfully made a motion to limit the time of debate. Democrats, who are outnumbered 72-29, attempted various parliamentary procedures to delay action on the bill.

It was the first dust-up this year on the House floor between Democrats and Republicans. The first month of this year's session, which began Feb. 4, went by calmly.

Last year, under then-Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, action often was delayed by Democrats working with Republicans who opposed the term-limited speaker.

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