News from the OK state senate
Session is moving right along. Five weeks down, eleven to go! We have around 200 more Senate bills to hear on the floor before Thursday’s deadline. We’ll then return to our committees to begin work on House bills reported out of that chamber.
Seven of my bills are still awaiting consideration on the Senate floor including SBs 781, 951, 1020, 1719, 1816, 1856 and 1859. These bills must be heard this coming week to stay alive.
Last week, we tackled many issues including creating a certificate of rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders while incarcerated. This will ensure they’re taking advantage of counseling, education and other services provided to them to help them better reintegrate into society and become independent, productive citizens who won’t return to prison. A bill was passed to crack down on contraband cellphones in our facilities. In order to better address the problem, the bill requires the DOC director to submit an annual report to the House and Senate leader and the governor about how many phones have been confiscated and the agency’s plan to address the issue. Last year, more than 150 gang leaders and members started violence from inside five facilities using contraband cellphones that led to lockdowns. This is extremely dangerous for correctional staff, other inmates, victims who get harassed and threatened, and the general public.
I’ve been receiving a lot of calls about medicinal marijuana since it was legalized. Constituents are concerned about the use of it in public. There has been some confusion. To clarify, we approved a bill that medical marijuana can’t be smoked or vaped anywhere where tobacco use is currently prohibited. The bill gives cities and counties the authority to regulate use of this product within their jurisdictions.
We also passed a bill prohibiting the use of tobacco products by those under the age of 21 to bring the state in line with new federal law.
Several education bills were approved. One will allow sophomores age 16 and older to participate in the Apprenticeships, Internships and Mentorships Act of 2016. Another one is basically reinstating the National Board Certification bonuses where qualified teachers can receive annual bonuses of $1,500 to $5,000 beginning next school year.
There were two bills to help families who are transferring to Oklahoma military bases get their children enrolled in school prior to moving. It waves the residency requirement by allowing them to electronically enroll their kids in traditional or virtual charters. They just have to prove residency within ten days of moving to the state.
We also approved a bill modifying how sales tax is calculated for vehicles - mirroring 38 other states. Under this bill, the sales tax will be based on the difference between the actual sales price and the trade-in value. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, this will save Oklahomans around $11 million in FY’21 and more than $16.5 million in FY’22.
You may or may not have known that the honeybee is the state’s official insect. To help grow this industry and encourage more Oklahomans to raise honeybees, we passed legislation to add bee products sold at farmers markets to the list of agricultural products already exempt from sales tax like fruits, vegetables and milk. Bees pollinate most of the food we consume daily. We need to do all we can to protect these crucial insects to ensure our rural and urban farmers have plentiful crops.
There are numerous events and groups at the Capitol daily to raise awareness or celebrate certain issues. Last week, there was GIS Day, League of Women Voters, Alzheimer’s Advocacy Day, Transportation Day, Abate Annual Legislative Day, OK Water Lobby Day, Truck Day, Nurses Day, and many other special events.
We were pleased to welcome several visitors from the district on Alzheimer’s Day. The Oklahoma Association of Realtors was kind enough to provide ice cream for staff and guests at the Capitol one day. We also appreciated seeing the Oklahoma Assisted Living Association (OKALA) advocating for vulnerable seniors.
On Friday, I attended the Tri-County Superintendent meeting at the Red River Technology Center in Duncan. I hope to see more groups from around Senate District 43 in the coming weeks.
If you have any questions or concerns about legislative matters, I can be reached at Paul. Scott@oksenate.gov or (405) 521-5522. You can also write me at the state Capitol at Sen. Paul Scott, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 428, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.