Thursday, March 28, 2019

Bipartisan Task Force Recommends Restarting House Page Program


Bipartisan Task Force Recommends Restarting House Page Program

OKLAHOMA CITY – The bipartisan task force assigned to evaluate the House of Representatives’ Page Program has voted unanimously to restart the program beginning next week with the implementation of immediate changes. The Page Program Task Force has recommended moving to male only and female only weeks through the end of the legislative session as they continue to evaluate the program and study best practices from other states. The Task Force has also recommended increasing security for the program. Based upon those recommendations, House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) announced the program will restart beginning Monday, April 1. The Task Force will continue to meet as it evaluates the program to consider additional changes.

“We believe this is a program worth having, and that we should continue to provide these opportunities for our students,” said Task Force Chairman Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa. “We are taking the protection of our pages very seriously, and we are making immediate changes that will enhance safety for our participants. We will continue to look at the program from a long-term perspective as the task force meets over the next few weeks. The page program is a very valuable experience for our students who participate and it is a way for lawmakers to connect with their communities. We will continue to be diligent in examining our current procedures, but we don’t want to punish those young people who hope to learn about the Legislature and maybe develop a life-long appreciation for public service.”

“The page program is a unique and historic education opportunity for Oklahoma students,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman. “I appreciate the quick work of committee members to ensure that students from across the state still have access to the program.”

“The safety of our pages is my number one priority in this process,” said Task Force Vice Chair Carol Bush, R-Tulsa. “We have looked at our current protocols and made some adjustments that we believe will protect our students and allow the program to be reinstated quickly. This is just the first step. We will continue to evaluate the program and make recommendations for changes that will protect our students in the long term.”

“This committee had two primary goals,” said Task Force member Ben Loring, D-Miami. “First, we wanted to make certain that future pages will be safe. Second, as long as we accomplished the first goal, we wanted to keep the program open and accessible to Oklahoma students throughout the remainder of session. I feel like we have accomplished both of these goals.”

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