Legislative Update

I hosted a Northwest Oklahoma Conservation tour Friday, March 20, with former state Rep. Clay Pope. The idea was to educate urban legislators about the direct impacts from conservation efforts in rural Oklahoma. Appropriations Chair, Representative Ken Miller, of Edmond attended the tour. He was pleasantly surprised by the projects we visited. The tour was such a success that we are already planning stages of hosting another before the end of session.

I was also happy to see conservation folks up at the Capitol this week. In particular, I would like to recognize Blaine and Dewey counties. Blaine County stopped by the office and Dewey County hosted an informational booth in the rotunda. The more awareness we can raise about conservation efforts, the better.

In past columns, I mentioned a bill of mine that passed and would increase the amount of reimbursable funds for county road and bridge projects from $200,000 to $400,000. The legislation would streamline county projects by allowing them to finish larger projects before getting the money from the state. Well, I am also happy to carry a similar Senate bill, by state Sen. Mike Schulz. Having the two measures doubles the odds of getting one of them passed into law.

We are gearing up to hear a number of important Senate bills in the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. One bill would protect farms and ranches from frivolous lawsuits, allowing farms and ranches being pulled into the court to be reimbursed their legal expenses if the lawsuit is found to be frivolous. Another bill by state Sen. Ron Justice would increase the fertilizer inspection fee by 35 cents to help fund research into soil fertility to benefit all Oklahoma agricultural producers.

In the Energy and Utility Regulation Committee, I will be looking at Senate bills such as one that would allow municipalities to expand funds to help conserve electricity or natural gas and therefore cut down on the costs on running the municipality. Another Senate bill would ban the Corporation Commission from accepting agreements to drill, operate or plug wells from entities that have been found in violation of the commission’s rulings. There are close to 20 bills currently referred to the committee.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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