Last week was busy in the House as we considered 163 measures in advance of our third-reading deadline. Many of these bills garnered questions and some debate before they passed, making for some long sessions. We’ll have additional long days as we consider hundreds more bills before March 23, the date by which bills must pass out of their legislative chamber of origin in order to stay active this session.
My House Bill 2292 passed the House last week on a vote of 92-1. This bill would allow Oklahoma meat processors to claim a $10,000 refundable income tax credit beginning in tax year 2024 to help offset the cost of getting their state and federal certifications. We only have about 109 meat processors statewide. This will hopefully encourage more to get certified, making for quicker processing times for ranchers and hunters, which will benefit the end consumer. Because this bill has a fiscal impact, the title has been stricken. That means the bill can change as it goes through the Senate before it returns to me for final passage.
Also last week, statewide voters rejected State Question 820, which would have legalized recreational marijuana for those over the age of 21. The question failed 62% to 38%. Voters in all of the state’s 77 counties said no to the proposition.
While voters legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2018, we still have a number of issues surrounding this industry. This includes the proliferation of the black market and a rise in drug cartel activity. The state has deactivated over 800 illegal marijuana farms, completed 165 arrests, and seized over 600,000 pounds of illegal marijuana in the last few years.
We’ve also heard from local law enforcement agencies as well as others such as tax assessors and county commissioners about issues involving public safety, access to grow facilities and strains on local resources such as water and utilities.
I think the mandate is that we get medical marijuana right before anyone considers anything further. One headline I read said voters didn’t just say no to this question but hell no.
In another matter, the House last week had to censure one of its own members. Rep. Mauree Turner was accused by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol of hiding someone in the member’s Capitol office that the patrol was seeking for questioning in the matter of an alleged assault against a patrol officer. The event happened during a protest at the Capitol. From the accounts of the incidence, Turner refused access to the office and impeded the Patrol’s investigation. An arrest warrant for the person in question was issued the next day. The speaker of the House was clear that such conduct will not be allowed in the House. Turner lost all committee assignments until a public apology is made. It’s been pointed out that Turner could have faced arrest.