The third week of the regular session is underway. We have two more weeks of committee work on bills before we turn our attention to debate before the full Chamber.
This session, I filed nine Senate bills and three have already received committee approval. SB 1364 authorizes the board of county commissioners to trade-in equipment to a vendor or on a statewide contract by acquiring used equipment values pursuant to state statute.
SB 1488 modifies the Wildlife Conservation Code to add a lifetime landowner hunting license for legal residents who have resided in the state for at least six months and intend to remain residents. The price of the new lifetime license for 500 to 1,000 acres would be $50,000 and $75,000 for any tract of land over 1,000 acres.
SB 1492 relates to boiler inspectors and requires that deputy inspectors receive a valid National Board Commission within 24 months after appointment rather than 18.
In other legislative news, the Senate will be bringing back the state’s largest agencies for further budget hearings. These agencies account for approximately 92 percent of the annual appropriated state budget. Typically, only the appropriations subcommittees have budget hearings during the interim. However, we thought that holding another round during session would allow more senators, the public and media to learn more about the various budgets and spending practices of the agencies. State revenues continue to rise, which is promising as we begin work for the upcoming budget.
This year, the Senate’s highest priority is the budget. We must craft a responsible budget and seek reforms that provide budget stability and reduce reliance on one-time money.
Education and getting more dollars into the classroom will also be a priority. We must find a way to fully fund a teacher salary increase, find efficiencies in our education system and also improve the funding formula. This week, the State Aid Funding Formula Task Force will be meeting to discuss current and future legislation that may impact the formula.
The second special session is ongoing as well. Last week was disappointing to say the least. Once again, after the Step Up budget plan was approved by both the House and Senate Joint Committees on Appropriations and Budget, the plan failed to get super majority approval in the House. The Senate never got a chance to vote on the measure even though we’ve already passed similar plans in the last few months.
Sadly, voting against the Step Up plan was a vote against raising teacher pay, funding for our health and human services, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and putting our state on a stable budget path forward.
Regardless of the plan’s failure, we are constitutionally mandated to balance the budget each year. This means we must move forward, and close the books on FY’18.
JCAB bills addressing the FY’18 cuts and necessary appropriations to help the health care agencies all passed last week and may be considered this week in the Senate.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.