By Rep. Mike Sanders
Each year during the interim between legislative sessions, each chamber of the state Legislature holds interim studies. These give lawmakers an opportunity for an in-depth look at ideas that may become future legislation or to examine areas where current law may need to be changed.
The interim study period is one of the most important parts of the legislative process. The ability to meet, gather data and question experts on matters important to Oklahomans is invaluable. This year, because of continuing renovation at the Capitol and because of health protocols, our meeting space is somewhat limited, but the 74 meetings approved will be livestreamed for those who want to watch meetings online. Any material presented at the meetings also will be archived and available on our House Website.
Studies will start the week of Aug. 10 and run through Oct. 29.
A full list of Interim Studies can be found here: https://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/ShowInterimStudies.aspx.
Meeting times and days as well as specific protocols will be posted on the website under meeting notices as they arescheduled.
Here is a look at some of the studies of importance:
Several studies will focus on practices enacted during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. One will look at the Catastrophic Emergency Powers Act that gave the governor broad power during the early days of the pandemic to respond with state resources. Others will examine the responsibilities and powers of county commissioners and municipal responses during such emergencies.
The House Republican Caucus chair will hold a study examining the lessons the state learned during COVID-19 as well as potential future responses as they relate to protecting vulnerable adults in long-term care facilities.
The House Education Committee chair will hold studies examining regional states compared to Oklahoma’s education response to COVID-19. She also will look at broadband connectivity for Oklahoma public schools. The importance of connectivity was highlighted when schools shut down to slow the spread of the virus. Our students must continue their education so they are fully prepared for the demands of the future.
On the topic of education, my own study will look at improving literacy skills in Oklahoma. This builds on several pieces of legislation I’ve passed in recent years that help address literacy gaps for students who suffer from dyslexia. Ensuring all Oklahoma students can read will help us build a stronger workforce and lead to a brighter future for the entire state.
Our House Appropriations & Budget vice chair will evaluate updating antiquated portions of the state’s tax code.
Several studies will look at transportation issues. One will eye options for cities and towns to secure funding to repair roads and bridges damaged by the energy industry. Another will look into creating the County Enhancement and Development Fund for country roads projects.
Another study will examine current regulations that affect the National Fire Protection Association, and whether some of those can or should be relaxed during times like the recent pandemic. A separate study will look at overlap and proper response procedures for rural fire departments and emergency managers as it relates to connectivity and routing of calls through 911 systems. Two legislators – one a former police officer, the other a former fire fighter – will evaluate the requirements and benefits of building a statewide emergency radio system for state, county, local and tribal authorities.
Options for increasing retirement savings programs for Oklahomans who currently do not have access to such a plan through their employer will be discussed. The focus will be to explore options for increasing access to retirement savings programs to encourage Oklahoman’s secure their financial future. A separate study will look at market analysis for future cost-of-living adjustments for state retirees.
Stolen valor is the subject of another study. This happens when a person who is not a veteran misrepresents themselves to claim tax exemptions or other benefits from the state. It’s quite a big deal to those who sacrificed and served our state and nation in the military. This study will look at the effects of this egregious violation.
Meat inspection has become a hot topic this year with many cattlemen suddenly facing long backlogs in getting meat processed and packaged. Part of the backlog is a lack of meat inspectors in the state. One study will look at potential incentives for local butchers to utilize meat inspectors.
Another study will look at private property laws as they relate to retrieval of hunted animals or cattle or livestock that get onto another person’s property.
These are just a few of the topics that piqued my interest. I’m sure I’ll find more.
In the meantime, if I can help you with anything, please do not hesitate to reach out. I can be reached atMike.Sanders@OKHouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.