The week in review: March 24, 2017

From Caldwell and Associates

March 23 marked another deadline for the 2017 legislative session. Bills had to pass out of the chamber of origin in order to move forward this session. The surviving measures will head to the opposite chamber for committee assignment. 

The Senate held floor hearings until Thursday afternoon. The House completed floor work on Wednesday and reconvened briefly Thursday before heading to Budget and Appropriations subcommittee meetings to receive briefings on the status of budget discussions. The meetings were a result of House leadership wanting more member involvement in the budget process.

The Senate passed a vehicle for a teacher pay raise. SB0618 authored by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, increases teachers’ salaries four percent for the 2017-2018 school year and an additional four percent for the 2018-2019 school year. Like HB1114, the House bill providing for a teacher pay raise, the Senate bill does not have a funding stream. However, House Speaker Charles McCall has announced he has a plan to fund the raise. Sen. Stanislawski would like to fund his proposal with an increase in the motor fuel tax.

The House and Senate passed a series of criminal justice reforms. The Senate criminal justice reforms are expected to save the state $1.9 billion and the House reforms could save $148.7 million. A complete list and description of the Senate bills can be found here and the House measures are available here.

Legislation Summary

Four measures important to the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma advanced this week.

HB1304 passed by a vote of 82 to 14. Authored by Rep. Casey Murdock, the bill modifies definitions within the Oklahoma Swine Feeding Operations Act. It allows municipalities to issue a waiver of the setback requirements for swine feeding operations and extends the waiver to changes in ownership of the property. 

HB1537 passed the House as amended. Authored by Rep. Jason Dunnington, the measure establishes the Water for 2060 Revolving Fund for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The funds are to be appropriated and spent on promoting efficient water use by municipalities and residents. It also requires commercial irrigation systems to have water metering features and municipalities using an inclined block rate structure to retain all revenues derived from the sale of water to each user, up to 25,000 gallons per month. The amendment changes the effective date and prohibits the provisions from applying to water sold to any city, town, rural water district or nonprofit corporations engaged in the sale or resale of water.

HB2132 passed the House by a vote of 60 to 26. Authored by Rep. Charles McCall, the bill authorizes the governor to enter into prosperity compacts and sets forth the compact requirements and limitations. The new language outlines the model prosperity compact requirements and limitations.

SB0393, authored by Sen. Josh Brecheen, passed the Senate. The bill creates the Oklahoma Science Education Act. The Act requires schools to create an environment within public school districts that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues and to endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.

The bills will move to the opposite chamber for consideration.

A complete list of measures monitored for the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is available here. Any measures listed as being on the General Order are now considered dormant unless they will be assigned to the Joint Appropriations and Budget Committee (JCAB).