Bill sends aid for poor to marriage coffers
The House passed a bill Wednesday that would take federal money directed for food and clothing for poor families and spend it on a public service campaign to promote marriage. House Bill 1908 passed 71-27 and now goes to the Senate. Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said the bill would require a small amount of the $145 million in federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Family funds go to marriage public service announcements. Nelson said the Department of Human Services, which administers the federal program, already uses money from the program to pay for a $2.8 million contract with the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative to help those receiving assistance with family issues. Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, said the cost could be little as $3,000 because broadcasters and others would donate time and services to the campaign. Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said he supported the marriage campaign, but disagreed that money should be diverted from needy families to pay for it. He said lawmakers should use other funds, saying most Oklahoma families receive less than $300 a month from the assistance program. Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, said 8,900 Oklahoma families, which have 17,000 children, depend on the assistance program, which has a maximum of 60 months of benefits within one's lifetime.
GOP chairman won't run for re-election
Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said Wednesday he is not seeking a third two-year term. The term for Pinnell, of Tulsa, ends April 20. Pinnell was elected chairman in 2010. Under his leadership, Republicans hold all statewide elected offices, all congressional seats and have large majorities in both chambers of the Legislature — a first in state history. And Republican registration in the state is at an all-time high. Pinnell was appointed in 2010 as the “Chairman of the State Chairmen” by the Republican National Committee; his duties include directing the sharing of ideas and best practices among the nation's state Republican leaders. Oklahoma Republicans in 2010 swept all state statewide races and expanded majorities in both the state House and Senate. Last year Republicans won all five congressional seats for only the second time in state history. A new chairman will be elected April 20 at the GOP state convention.
House OKs revised Sharia law proposal
The House passed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit foreign laws from being enforced in Oklahoma courtrooms. Rep. Sally Kern, the author of the bill, said House Bill 1060 would prohibit the application of foreign laws when it would violate either the Oklahoma Constitution or U.S. Constitution. HB 1060 passed 81-11. It now goes to the Senate. Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said the bill was filed after a similar ballot measure — State Question 755 — was appealed in federal court after it was approved by voters in November 2010. “We had a state question approved by voters to address Sharia law specifically, but the courts ruled that we could not discriminate by singling out a specific group,” she said. “This year's legislation contains language that is more general and therefore should be accepted by the courts.”
School lawsuit bill wins House approval
Legislation that would discourage “abusive and frivolous” lawsuits by school districts won approval Wednesday in the House. House Bill 2160, by Rep. Jason Nelson, would require school districts to pay students' and parents' court costs and attorney fees when they initiate civil action or proceedings against students or parents. Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said such lawsuits are inappropriate because schools serve the public and should not be persecuting students and parents. HB 2160 passed 55-37. It now goes to the Senate.
MICHAEL MCNUTT, CAPITOL BUREAU