Wading through filed bills

by Chris Kidd

This session, we only have four weeks to consider the roughly 1,100 bills that were filed in the Senate. Granted not all of those bills will be given a hearing but a large portion will be, so we have no time to waste. We’ve been working nonstop the last two weeks, hearing more than 300 measures in our committees, and passing over a dozen off the Senate floor.

Since session began on Feb. 6, I have presented several bills that were passed out of committee.  Senate Bills 951 and 952 passed unanimously out of the General Government Committee. SB 951 would increase the monthly travel allowance allotted to county sheriffs to $1,000; county assessors to $900, and county clerks to $800. It would also increase the monthly allowance by 2% annually, beginning in FY’28.  SB 952 aligns the disposal laws in Title 19 to match the new inventory law that passed last year, adjusting the counties inventory to match the State of Oklahoma’s - $2,500 for non-IT items and $500 for IT items.

Two of my bills passed out of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. SB 961 would provide the agriculture tax exemption for our state’s $5.8 million timber industry. Pine plantations are no different than wheat or cotton farms – trees are planted, cared for, and harvested. The only difference is it takes a pine tree 25-30 years to reach maturity. Texas and other surrounding states already recognize timber production as an agricultural enterprise, and it’s time Oklahoma does too. 

Another important bill for rural Oklahoma is SB 1005 to create the OSU Veterinarian Medicine Authority. Oklahoma is facing a critical shortage of large animal veterinarians as many are quickly approaching retirement age.

The OSU Veterinary Medicine Authority will support clinical faculty, student training and the veterinary teaching hospital, similar to the successful models that exist for the state’s medical schools. The authority would create a mechanism to support and stabilize the veterinary medicine teaching hospital with the ultimate goal of building a long-term sustainable veterinary medicine program and positioning the school as a leader in training the next generation of veterinary professionals.

The last bill addresses a frustrating problem for our county clerks, and that’s disgruntled individuals paying their legal fines and fees in loose, unrolled coins. Counting this change is time consuming, and for counties with smaller staffs, this can cause long lines, inconveniencing other citizens. SB 1037 would limit the amount of “unrolled, loose coins” that could be used for payment to $10. Any amount over $10 paid in coins would be required to be rolled. There’s nothing wrong with paying in coins, we just want to make sure the county clerks’ time and that of the other people waiting for services is respected by utilizing rolled change. 

Besides working on legislation, we’ve welcomed many guests to the Capitol. We celebrated Higher Ed Day this past Tuesday, and I met with students from various colleges around SD 31, as well as others like Murray State.

I also enjoyed visiting with Marietta High School FCCLA officers and speaking to the Oklahoma Youth Expo (OYE) Ag Leadership Class, which are the top 10-12 seniors in the College of Ag at OSU.

If I can be of any assistance, please contact my office at (405) 521-5563 and speak with my executive assistant, Suzanne Earnest, or email me at Chris.Kidd@oksenate.gov.