According to Oklahoma’s constitution, the Legislature formally convenes on the first Monday in February, with the spotlight on the presentation of the governor’s State of the State address to the members of the House and Senate. After the ceremony and tradition of the opening day of the session, attention shifts to committee consideration of legislation.
The 2019 session was my first in the State Senate, and I used that as an opportunity to learn as much as I could about the process. Fortunately, my experience in municipal government as a city treasurer, council member and as a mayor gave me an excellent foundation and made the transition into state government much easier.
During that first session, I authored five Senate bills—four of those were signed into law and another carried over to this session. I also was principal Senate author for six bills filed in the House. Five of those were signed into law, and the sixth was carried over to the 2020 session.
With a full year now under my belt, I’m ready to hit the ground running and build on the experience I’ve gained guiding bills through the legislative process. January 16 was the deadline for most types of bills to be heard in the 2020 legislative session. This year, I authored 22 measures aimed at promoting economic development and growth, expanding affordable housing and better protecting the citizens of our state.
Among those bills is SB 1663, which directs the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) to review the unemployment compensation structure in the state and to develop a method that ties unemployment benefits and employer contribution rates to economic conditions. It further directs the OESC to make recommendations regarding the minimum balance amount to be maintained in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Oklahoma and our nation are enjoying record low unemployment rates, yet unemployment tax rates have remained unchanged and the Insurance Trust Fund continues to grow. We’ll use this requested report to better evaluate the possibility of reducing employment tax rates paid by businesses in our state when the economics will support it.
SB 1785 is the “Oklahoma Farmers Market and Farmers Hub Act” to define and clarify in statute the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture’s role in registering and supporting Oklahoma farmers markets. This legislation outlines requirements for traditional farmers markets to help ensure food safety standards are met and consumers can purchase locally grown foods and provide a market opportunity for Oklahoma Farmers.
The bill also defines an emerging business model that is becoming more prevalent in our State – “Farmers Hubs.” Like farmers markets, hubs provide an opportunity for Oklahomans to purchase locally produced foods, but unlike traditional farmers markets where consumers can meet and talk directly with the farmers to learn about the products, at farmers hubs the farmer may be selling on consignment without actually being there. Because the producer is not onsite, this bill adds some requirements for hubs, including labeling and maintenance of sales logs, for added consumer protections.
I’ve also authored SB 1749, the “Scrap Metal Dealers Act.” This measure will simplify, clarify and strengthen statutory requirements that are designed to curtail metal theft in our state. We were able to bring together police, city governments, state agencies and industry leaders to examine and determine reasonable solutions for slowing down metal theft and helping law enforcement to solve crimes in this arena.
I’ll keep you updated on these and other measures moving through the Legislature throughout the 2020 session.
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be your voice in the Oklahoma Senate. Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.