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Oklahoma Senators take oath of office

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Twenty-four new and returning members of the Oklahoma State Senate were sworn into office at the Capitol Wednesday with Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, President of the Senate, presiding over the ceremony. The oath was administered by the Honorable Douglas L. Combs, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

New members taking the oath of office include David Bullard, R-Durant; Chuck Hall, R-Perry; Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City; Darrell Weaver, R-Moore; Mary Boren, D-Norman; Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City; John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton; Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City; John Haste, R-Broken Arrow; Brenda Stanley, R-Oklahoma City; Brent Howard, R-Headrick; and George Young, D-Oklahoma City.

Returning members include Senators Marty Quinn, R-Claremore; Mark Allen, R-Spiro; Roger Thompson, R-Okemah; James Leewright, R-Sapulpa; Frank Simpson, R-Springer; Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City; Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher; Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City; Kim David, R-Porter; J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso; Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City; and Jason Smalley, R-Stroud.

The full Senate will officially convene for an organizational day on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, and the First Session of the 57th Legislature reconvenes on Monday, February 4. The deadline for requesting bills for the upcoming session is December 7. Those measures must be filed by January 17.

The Senate website has streaming video from all committee rooms and the chamber. Legislation, the Senate Journal, biographical information on members, high resolution photos, committee and floor agendas, votes and press releases can also be accessed at www.oksenate.gov.

Senate votes Greg Treat as president pro tempore

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday voted Senator Greg Treat as president pro tempore, the chamber’s top leadership post.

Treat previously served as the majority floor leader, the Senate’s second-highest leadership office, and was selected by Senate Republicans last year as their choice to lead the Senate. On Tuesday during organizational day, the entire Senate made it official and voted to name Treat as the Senate leader.

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the leader of the Oklahoma Senate. I very much appreciate my colleagues for their trust in my leadership and look forward to the challenge ahead. I also want to thank my wife and children. Without their love and support, I would not be able to serve in the Senate,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

“As leader of the Senate I promise our chamber will work hard, we’ll work together across political parties, and we’ll work toward policies that are good for all Oklahomans. There are certainly challenges facing our state, but there is nothing standing in our way that we can’t overcome together. I am optimistic about the future of our state and feel very blessed to be in a position to help lead Oklahoma to an even better and brighter future.”

Treat lives in Oklahoma City with his wife Maressa and their three children: Mason, Cooper, and Olivia. The Treat family attends Frontline Church. He was elected in a 2011 special election to represent District 47, which encompasses northwest Oklahoma City and portions of Edmond, Deer Creek, and Bethany. Treat serves on the executive committees of both the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Southern Legislative Conference.

The Oklahoma Constitution calls upon the Legislature to meet before the start of each two-year session to formally elect its leaders and certify the previous year’s election results. On Tuesday, the Senate certified the 2018 election results and officially elected Treat and other senators to Senate leadership positions. The Senate GOP leadership includes:

  • Senator Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, President Pro Tempore
  • Senator Kim David, R-Porter, Majority Floor Leader
  • Senator Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, Appropriations chair
  • Senator Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, Majority Caucus chair
  • Senator Rob Standridge, R-Norman, Majority Whip
  • Senator Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, Assistant Floor Leader
  • Senator Frank Simpson, R-Springer, Assistant Floor Leader
  • Senator Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, Majority Caucus vice chair
  • Senator Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Casey Murdock, R-Felt, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, Assistant Majority Whip
  • Senator Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, Rural Caucus chair

New law to allow Oklahoma farmers to grow hemp

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Lonnie Paxton applauded Gov. Fallin for signing legislation Tuesday to help grow Oklahoma’s agriculture industry by allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp. House Bill 2913, by Sen. Paxton, Rep. Jon Echols and Rep. Mickey Dollens, creates the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program.

“Currently, Oklahoma can import hemp but can’t grow it.  This will help diversify our state’s struggling economy and will provide a tremendous boost to the agriculture industry,” said Paxton, R-Tuttle.  “This new industry will potentially create thousands of jobs and put hundreds of millions of dollars a year into our economy.  There’s a strong possibility that it could easily become a $1 billion industry.”

The new law will allow universities or farmers contracting with universities to cultivate certified hemp crops for research and development for industrial uses.  The Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry will manage the program.  A revolving fund will also be created for all registration, lab, and inspection fees paid by program participants.

Hemp is the strongest natural fiber in the world and has been found to have more than 50,000 uses including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel.  Being a weed, it is drought tolerant taking one-third the amount of water of alfalfa.  The benefits of cultivating this plant is that it can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre per year, which is four times what an average forest can yield and it does not require chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides. Hemp could yield Oklahoma farmers as much as $1,500 per acre.

The new law, which went into effect upon being signed, was made possible by the Agricultural Act of 2014 allowing the growing of hemp under pilot programs overseen by universities.  Nearly 40 other states already have industrial hemp programs.

Senate Pro Tem comments on court’s ruling on SQ 799 referendum petition

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, released the following comment regarding the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling on State Question 799 and referendum petition:

“I am pleased the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the effort to repeal HB 1010xx. The Legislature took extraordinary steps in passing HB 1010xx and it is absolutely necessary to fully fund the largest teacher pay raise in state history and the significant increase in education funding passed this session. We should all now turn our focus toward working for the resources and reforms necessary to support our teachers and ensure our children get the best education possible.”

From the office of Sen. Chris Kidd

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As many of you know, state budgets for the last few years have been deficient resulting in drastic cuts, revenue failures, and budget shortfalls. The last year and a half, we have worked tirelessly to correct Oklahoma’s budget. This is not an easy fix but a multi-faceted approach. This past year, we have made tremendous headway in putting Oklahoma on a firm foundation.

One area we focused on in correcting the budget was our state agencies.  By passing several budget limit bills, we now have more legislative oversight of agency spending to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly and efficiently. 

At the same time we were focusing on efficiencies, we were also giving our attention to revenue that’s sustainable and long term. The votes I had to cast to provide more revenue were by no means easy, even painful at times. As difficult as it was, those votes resulted in much needed recurring revenue into the state’s budget.

With the appropriation reforms and revenue-raising measures my colleagues and I passed this session, we can now properly fund our government with no agency cuts in the FY’19 budget. Things are beginning to turn around for Oklahoma.

The Treasurer’s office announced this week that gross receipts for April were up 15% over last April. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) reported that March General Revenue Fund collections were $405.5 million, an increase of 15.2 percent above March 2017 collections. In addition, gross receipts have shown continual growth for the last 13 months. Moody’s, one of the nation’s top credit-rating agencies, also issued a credit-positive report for Oklahoma earlier this month.

Most notably, lawmakers passed legislation raising salaries for all teachers, support staff and most state employees, impacting thousands of Oklahoma families with increased compensation for their service to the state. 

With the hundreds of bills and issues we tackled, this past session was difficult to say the least, but progress was made.  There’s always more that can be done and now session is over, and as we go into the interim, we will continue working to put Oklahoma on a firm foundation.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

Senate Report from Chris Kidd April 26 2018

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 It’s no secret; education and its funding have been the focus and all-consuming issue this session. It’s much more than just a legislative issue, it’s a personal one.  The hundreds of Senate District 31 constituents who have visited my office over the last four weeks aren’t just constituents; these are the people we all do life with. People, who I go to church with, grew up with. They’re the ones who taught me in school. They are classmates, former students of mine and former colleagues. They are relationships I value.

But in addition to education, our rural nursing homes and hospitals, our mental health system, our intellectually and developmentally disabled population, our roads and bridges also need attention and funding. Two things I’ve learned serving as your senator: you elected me to ensure all areas of state government are running efficiently (without waste) and to make sure all areas of state government are properly funded.

Regarding state government inefficiencies, waste, and reforms:

Last session, new legislation was signed into law for the first time in state history requiring performance audits of the state’s 10 largest agencies every four years. (HB 2311)

In addition, we have cut 85% of the state’s agencies, 45% over the last decade. We’ve also reduced 7,000 state employees and consolidated or eliminated 18 agencies in that time.

Regarding proper funding of state government (education):

This session, the state legislature passed a bi-partisan education funding bill that included the following:

1. Teacher pay raises: $353.5 million

2. Support staff pay raises: $52 million

3. Text books: $33 million

4. Teacher Flex Benefits: $24.6 million

5. State Employee Pay Raise: $63.7 million

To put this into perspective, half a billion dollars (over $500 million) in new revenue was created for public education in an environment of tough political circumstances and a requirement of a three-fourths majority vote. What had not been accomplished in 30 years and what seemed to be impossible, was accomplished on March 26, 2018. This legislation provides the largest teacher pay raise in state history, moving Oklahoma to the second-highest in the region in average teacher pay.

We also passed HB 3705, which appropriates $2.9 BILLION, or a 19.7 percent increase overall in education funding. The bill includes a 22 percent increase overall to the State Aid Funding Formula, with $33 million line-itemed for textbooks and $17 million into the state aid formula. The revenue package also includes $63 million in tiered funding for state employee pay raises, and another $52 million for a $1,250 pay raise for education support staff.

What was accomplished with the passage of the above mentioned legislation is historic. Difficult decisions were necessary, and while our work in education is not done, I am proud of the strides we have achieved thus far.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

NewsOK: Poll shows three-way tie in GOP gubernatorial primary

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Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett are in a three-way tie for first in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, according to a survey released Wednesday by Magellan Strategies.

The survey of 644 likely Republican voters showed 19 percent expressed support for Lamb; 19 percent for Stitt; and 17 percent for Cornett.

The automated voice recorded survey was conducted on April 18, 19 and 22, according to the Colorado-based company. The survey has a margin of error of 3.86 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

According to the survey, President Donald J. Trump has an approval rating of 80 percent in the state, while Gov. Mary Fallin’s approval rating is 20 percent.

Stitt is a Tulsa businessman running as an outsider. Cornett is the former mayor of Oklahoma City.

Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson received 12 percent in the survey; Yukon pastor Dan Fisher received 5 percent; and Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones received 5 percent.

The undecided was 23 percent.

The primary election is set for June 26, with the run-off primary scheduled for Aug. 28.

Previous polls this year have shown Cornett and Lamb as the frontrunners, with Stitt in third and very high amount of undecided voters.

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader on Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruling on State Question 799

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OKLAHOMA CITY- Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks released the following statement on the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to declare Referendum Petition 25, State Question 799 invalid and stricken from the ballot:

 

“Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that State Question 799, Referendum Petition 25 is invalid. While the Oklahoma Constitution empowers citizens to initiate a referendum petition, it is also very clear what the process and procedures are which must be followed to place the referendum on the ballot. In their rush to begin collecting signatures, the group calling itself ‘Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite!’ and former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn failed to include an accurate gist explaining the purpose of the referendum, and also did not attach an exact copy of the law it seeks to repeal.

 

With the effort to repeal the revenue package by referendum stalled, the focus should now return to enacting long term, sustainable revenue to properly fund education in Oklahoma.”

Bill aimed at boosting state’s second largest industry

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to boost the state’s second largest industry, the aerospace industry.  House Bill 2578, by Sen. Paul Rosino and Rep. Tess Teague, would create the Aerospace Commerce Economic Services (ACES) program under the Department of Commerce.  The ACES program is based on similar business models from other states that have proven to have substantial economic impacts.

“The aerospace industry in Oklahoma is a $44 billion industry and utilizing ACES proven organizational structure and methodology is estimated to further grow the industry to $50-$60 billion annually,” said Rosino, R-Oklahoma City.  “This focused initiative will help drive further job creation, economic growth and increased tax revenues for our state.”

HB 2578 would create a partnership of service providers to more effectively respond to the needs of the aviation, aerospace and defense industries in the areas of education and training, research and economic development.  A panel would be formed, chaired by the Governor to facilitate Oklahoma agencies, industry, academia and other key stakeholders in creating and aligning goals.

ACES would build on the success of its precursor, the Center of Aerospace and Defense Supplier Quality (CADSQ) ran by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC).  A 2015 Economic Impact Study found that CADSQ created $72 million in new business and had a $237 million state economic impact.  The OAC invested $2 million in CADSQ, which produced $9.7 million in new taxes for the state.

“The aerospace industry has tremendous momentum right now and we must keep that going. The previous business model used by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission provided a five to one or 517 percent return on the state’s investment and ACES will help produce even more growth in Oklahoma’s economy,” said Rosino. “Having a strong business strategy will help the aerospace industry continue growing by being able to better utilize available resources for the recruitment of specific targeted businesses that have production and sustainment capabilities.”

HB 2578 will now go before the full Senate.

Sen. Nathan Dahm calls on legislature to correct years of veto decisions

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‘Over the last eight years we have seen decisions from the governor that are out of step with the will of the people, with the Republican party platform, and with the Constitution.’—Sen. Nathan Dahm

Broken Arrow, OK – Sen. Nathan Dahm has started the process for legislators to call themselves back into session to pass legislation vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin.

“Over the last eight years we have seen decisions from the governor that are out of step with the will of the people, with the Republican Party platform, and with the Constitution,” said Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. “We have seen Governor Fallin use her veto pen to kill bills that would have brought transparency and accountability to government, reined in out of control agency rules, get parents more involved in education, restore our Second Amendment rights, return local control back to communities, secure parental rights in healthcare decisions, streamline and modernize state government, restore private property rights, change the budgeting system for long term planning, and more. This would afford us the opportunity to correct those mistakes without having to wait another year to do so.”

In order to enter a special session, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate must agree to return.

“The Oklahoma Constitution allows for the Legislature to call itself back into session with two-thirds of both the House and the Senate. It appears likely we will return back to the Capitol for at least one more special session this summer or fall. If we will be returning for another session, it would seem an opportune time to simultaneously deal with these measures the Governor has vetoed,” Dahm said.

So far, the following members have already signed on to the resolution: Reps. Sean Roberts; Greg Babinec; Bobby Cleveland; Jeff Coody; Jon Echols; George Faught; Tom Gann; Lewis Moore; Zack Taylor; Kevin West; Rick West; Mark Lawson; and Sens. Nathan Dahm; Josh Brecheen; James Leewright; and Anthony Sykes.

Dahm has the first ever veto override of a Republican governor by a Republican legislature in state history. In 2014 Fallin vetoed HB2461, a pro-Second Amendment bill supported by the NRA, OK2A, and other gun rights groups when she included the bill in a group of vetoes in an attempt to force the legislature to focus on her preferred agenda items. The Legislature overrode the veto in a historic move and by doing so furthered Second Amendment protections that would have otherwise been stalled by Fallin.

Dahm represents Oklahoma’s 33rd district. He was first elected in 2012.

For more information, contact Sen. Nathan Dahm, 405-521-5551 or dahm@oksenate.gov.

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