OHP hopes new laws will help fill the department

For the first time in seven years, workers with Oklahoma Highway Patrol are getting a raise. The pay increase is one of two new laws to benefit OHP.Governor Mary Fallin signed the bills at a ceremony Wednesday. They easily passed both chambers this legislative session.Senate Bill 232 implements a pay scale based on studies by DPS. Sen. Clark Jolley, R- Edmond, who authored the bill said it could mean anywhere from a 14 to 20 percent increase, costing the state about $8.5 million."They're going to have an incentive to make sure we're protected on our highways," Jolley said. "We appreciate their service, this is the least we could do to help them."The bills have been a long time coming. "We've seen the result of (lack of pay.) We've seen fewer people want to become highway patrolman," Jolley said.Lt. Betsy Randolph, a spokesperson for OHP, said pay made it hard to recruit the kind of men and women the department needed. She's hopeful the new laws will change that."When we get good people and then we go through the lengthy process of screening them, training them, and getting them on the road, we're going to be able to complete with keeping our folks," she said.Randolph said recruitment should also be easier with the help of the second new law. Senate bill 1372 eases requirements to apply with the department. It drops the age minimum from 23 to 21 and only requires applicants to have an associates degree.Randolph said it will encourage people to come to OHP directly out of college or military service.The bills go in to effect immediately.