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As the first session of Oklahoma’s 55th legislature nears the May 29 adjournment date, all eyes are focused on how to plug the $611 million hole in the state’s FY2016 budget. On April 24, Gov. Fallin signed legislation that requires state agencies to use performance-informed budgeting techniques, which was one of her key legislative priorities. Scheduled to take effect July 1, Senate Bill 189 changes the budgeting process to align resources with state priorities and measurable outcomes. Once fully implemented, Oklahoma will become the first state in the nation to develop a comprehensive budgeting system that ties spending to measurable goals and outcomes.

While the April 23 deadline to advance legislation from the opposite chamber has passed, legislators will be working to pass those bills that remain active before a budget deal is reached and the mad dash begins to adjourn for the year.

On April 21, HJR 1012 (the Right to Farm Act) passed the full Senate by a vote of 39-6. In a joint effort with other groups opposed to this bill, we worked to pass amendments designed to weaken the impact of the legislation but were unsuccessful. An amendment was adopted stipulating that HJR 1012 will not affect any statute or ordinance enacted by the Legislature or any other political subdivision prior to December 31, 2014, thus preventing it from being retroactive, should it make it to the 2016 ballot and be approved by the voters. The measure will now go back to the House to either accept or reject the Senate amendments. While it appears likely that the Right to Farm Act will make it to the ballot, we still encourage you to reach out to your House members to voice opposition to this measure and ask them to reject the Senate amendments. To find your legislator, click here.

Senate Bill 155, which would allow the Scenic Rivers Commission to hire part-time law enforcement officers, passed out of the House April 15 by a vote of 77-12. The bill was amended to add the State Board of Osteopathic Examiners to the list of agency officials who are exempt from dual office holding. However, this amendment does not substantively change the bill as it relates to the Scenic Rivers Commission objective. SB 155 is currently on the Senate agenda for a vote to accept the House amendments, but was not taken up last week.

We will continue to monitor these issues and keep you advised as they move through the process. For more information and details of all legislation we are currently tracking, visit www.oklahomaconservation.org/issues.