It's Day 4 of the Oklahoma school shutdown, and there is new progress on legislation funding education at the state Capitol.
The Oklahoma Senate is expected to vote this week on a new bill to direct online sales tax money to education.
One lawmaker, state Representative Kevin Wallace of Lincoln County, says this is not a new tax, but that this is tax money that online vendors already owe to Oklahoma.
House Bill 1019XX, which sailed through on a 92-7 vote Wednesday night, would require third party vendors that use Amazon Marketplace to collect a sales tax. Most people using Amazon might not know they are buying products from a third party vendor because Amazon does the billing and shipping.
Already, you and I are required to pay the state use tax when we make online purchases. In this bill, about $20 million collected by online vendors will be directed toward education every year.
Some Democrats in the state House say the teachers shouldn't be satisfied.
"You're here for more than a $20 million band aid. You're here for the kids and you're here for fixing the systemic problems facing the budget and education funding in this state," said state Representative Scott Inman of Oklahoma City.
Inman encouraged teachers to continue the walkout into next week.
"You have to continue the fight for additional funding," he said. "Whether that's capital gains, or restoring income tax cuts, you have to ask for more. If you walk away from this building today and don't come back next week, and settle for Amazon and ball and dice, then there will be no opportunities next year," he said.
The state Senate still has to pass the Amazon bill before it can go to the Governor's desk.
Four Green Country representatives voted "no" on the Amazon sales tax bill. We reached out to representatives Dale Derby of Owasso, Travis Dunlap of Bartlesville, Tom Gann of Inola and Chuck Strohm of Jenks for comment but have not heard back.
The Senate said it will meet in a special session Friday at 8:30 a.m. to consider the bill. It will also meet in regular session Friday morning to consider HB 3375, or the "ball and dice" bill.
Following the announcement, Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest released a statement saying:
"Educators have been passionately advocating for their students and asking the legislature to provide more funding for our classrooms, and it seems those calls are being heard. Tomorrow the Senate has an opportunity to help turn the tide for education in Oklahoma and provide additional funding that our students greatly need and deserve. By passing clean versions of HB 1013xx and HB 1019xx, lawmakers will nearly double the increase in funding for Oklahoma students.
"Tens of thousands of educators, parents and students have taken to the Capitol this week, and the crowds have grown each day. We have been advocating tirelessly for our students, and lawmakers are hearing us. We encourage lawmakers to pass these additional revenues and invest in our students and Oklahoma's future."