The week in review: March 3, 2017

From Caldwell and Associates

Thursday was the first deadline of session. In order to advance, bills had to pass out of committee in the house of origin. Those failing to make it out of committee are now considered dead. Over the next few weeks, the House and Senate will focus on floor hearings in order to meet the next deadline. Bills must pass out of the house of origin by March 23 in order to move forward in the legislative process.

The financial outlook for the state took another grim turn this week when Standard and Poor’s lowered its bond rating after the state’s revenue failure was declared. State Treasurer Ken Miller responded with this statement. 

There is doubt a budget agreement will be reached before May. The Senate’s lead budget negotiator, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kim David, indicated it would be difficult for revenue raising measures to receive the required three-fourths vote to pass. However, the House still seems to be open to the idea. House Speaker Charles McCall and House Minority Leader Scott Inman have been engaged in discussions on possible increases to the cigarette tax and gross production tax. 

Candidate filing opened this week for the House District 75 seat, soon to be vacated by Rep. Dan Kirby.  Four republicans and two democrats will vie for their party’s nomination during the special primary election on May 9.

Gov. Fallin signed the first bill of session into law Thursday. HB1845 adopts the REAL ID security requirements for Oklahoma’s driver licenses and identification cards. The bill is effective immediately.

Legislation Summary

Three measures closely watched by the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma advanced this week.

HB1537 passed the Appropriations and Budget Committee. 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. 

SB0393 passed the Senate Education Committee. Authored by Sen. Josh Brecheen, 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.

SB0498 passed the Senate Energy Committee. Authored by Sen. Mark Allen, the bill allows the executive director of the Department of Environmental Quality to issue “de minimis exemption” pollutant discharge permits to the owners or operators of properties whose pollutant discharges are determined not to reach a threshold that threatens the water quality of the receiving body of surface water.

All three bills are eligible for floor hearings.  

A complete list of measures monitored for the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is available here.