By Rep. Mike Sanders
Much has been written in recent weeks about Oklahoma’s non-compliance with the federal REAL ID Act. Beginning in January 2017, Oklahoma driver’s licenses will no longer be valid to get onto a military base or gain access to a federal building, including federal courthouses. In January 2018, they won’t be accepted by commercial airlines.
Oklahoma is not alone in this fight. It is one of more than 20 states that have yet to fully comply with the law. The problem is one of protection. The REAL ID Act calls for biometric information and storage of personal information that can be accessed by any agency requesting the federally compliant ID. When we hear so often of cyber data breaches, the concerns are real. Another concern is that of overreach. Some believe the federal government is trying to force a national ID system. The act came, however, after the 9-11 attacks in which the attackers used driver’s licenses that met security requirements at the time.
Several of my colleagues have said they will bring legislation early in the next session to address this issue, with the goal of coming into compliance with the federal law while at the same time protecting the personal information of Oklahoma residents. I look forward to considering this measure. I certainly don’t want Oklahomans to be inconvenienced as they go about their daily business, but I also want to ensure their privacy.
Also this week, interim studies continued at the Capitol.
Two combined studies examined the feral hog problem in Oklahoma. Lawmakers heard and voiced concerns about the transmission of disease from wild hogs to those owned by farmers and those shown by FFA students as well as the destruction of farm land.
The Samuel Roberts Noble Research Foundation estimates the feral hog population in Oklahoma to be as high as 1.6 million, with hogs verified in all 77 counties. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture has reported that feral hogs can carry up to 30 different diseases. At least one study estimates the damage to agriculture was $1.5 billion several years ago, a figure no doubt higher today.
Most presenters agreed total eradication of feral hogs is not realistic. The issue then is the best way to control these animals that cause so much damage. Methods discussed included the continued allowance of sport hunting with an expansion of times allowed, poisoning the animals, and trapping and slaughtering them.
An expert from the state Wildlife Department said shooting the hogs from helicopters and trapping are the most effective means of control. Another expert pointed out, though, that as long as there are incentives for shooting or trapping, there will be incentives to maintain the animals.
The governor last year vetoed a bill that would have allowed day and night hunting with a landowner’s permission, expressing safety concerns. I know this issue will rise again, and I’ll be looking for a solution that best protects our state crops and commercial and domestic animal populations while ensuring our freedoms and safety.
Another study held this month focused on changes made to the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness evaluation (TLE). The new law makes voluntary the quantitative or student test score portion of the evaluation. The move is anticipated to save school districts millions of dollars in implementation costs and restore local control. The study’s author said when the legislation was passed he knew other slight changes might be warranted. The interim study looked particularly at the professional development component of the evaluation in an effort to determine the best ways to support teacher growth in their classrooms. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this and other education topics in the coming year.
As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.