Eddie Fields looks at the legislative session

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital
Eddie Fields

This was the deadline week to report bills out of committee. Many budget reforms were approved in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In Oklahoma, we utilize apportionments or “off-the-top” money to fund programs. While these funds ensure many worthy programs have consistent sources of money, it also means the Legislature has much less flexibility in setting spending priorities and appropriating funds.

The Senate Pro Tem is sponsoring a series of bills that cap many apportionment streams at a three-year average and directs any money collected in excess of that be deposited into the general revenue fund. This will provide lawmakers with more control over the tax dollars to shift resources during times of fiscal crisis, or to put more support and funding toward critical functions like education, public safety, transportation and health care.

I filed numerous bills this session and most of them made it out of committee. I’d like to mention some of them. SB 1181 modifies the Oklahoma Limitation of Liability for Farming and Ranching Land Act by removing the per acre charge limitation.

SB 1183 clarifies that the State Board of Agriculture will have the power to issue certificates of free sale for any products or items within the jurisdiction of the agency.

SB 1184 transfers requirements to assist the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services from the Department of Commerce.

SB 1269 specifies the dates that general elections are required to be held in Oklahoma.

SB 1303 authorizes the Lottery Commission to allow tickets to be bought with debit cards.

SB 1319 clarifies that the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission has supervision over all race meetings held in the state not just certain ones. It also adds that horses hair can be tested for drugs.

SB 1360 specifies that anyone who has held a nuisance wildlife control operator permit for 5 years or longer will not be required to provide proof of U.S. citizenship in order to obtain or renew their permit.

SB 1477 provides the definition of marginal water.

SB 1515 clarifies the purpose and function of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board Fee Revolving Fund.

SB 1579 creates the “Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department Reimbursement and Donation Fund”.

In closing, I’d like to mention an issue that is of great concern right now and that’s school safety and security. In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Florida, Pro Tem Schulz and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb met this week to further the conversation on this important issue. In 2012, Lt. Gov. Lamb chaired the Oklahoma Commission on School Security (OCSS), which issued a detailed report of findings and recommendations on school security and safety issues. He plans to meet again with those who served on that commission, and whose work has served as a national model for other states studying school security issues. We look forward to having Lt. Gov. Lamb’s input and expertise as we work on this issue. We must continually examine what needs to be done at the local and state level to keep our kids, teachers and schools safe.

You can contact me at the state Capitol by calling (405) 521-5581 or by email at efields@oksenate.gov.

Sen. Eddie Fields represents District 10 in the Oklahoma Senate.