State lawmakers wrapped up the bulk of their work last week ending with a rare Friday legislative day. While the majority of the work is now complete, both chambers have signaled that they plan to return to the Capitol on Thursday and Friday to consider any overrides of potential gubernatorial vetoes before adjourning sine die on Friday, May 27.
Last week, the budget for fiscal year 2023 was approved by both the House and Senate and now awaits consideration by Gov. Stitt.
The 2023 budget included funding for a variety of Oklahoma Farm Bureau interests. Lawmakers allocated just over $10 million for rural fire departments, $330,000 for hiring additional full-time meat inspectors and $500,000 for the Made in Oklahoma program. The legislature also increased funding for the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges from $120 million to $150 million and designated $3 million for the Emergency Drought Relief Fund.
Oklahoma State University also received several allocations, including $2 million to OSU Extension, $1 million to the OSU Agricultural Experiment Stations, $4 million to the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and $1.5 million to the OSU Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
In an unexpected move, the legislature called themselves into a special session on Wednesday, May 18 for the purpose of allocating the $1.8 billion Oklahoma received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The state has received $17.8 billion in requests for 1,400 projects, but to date no money has been spent.
The legislature plans to reconvene sometime during the interim to approve allocations suggested by the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding.
In addition to budget discussions, both chambers passed language last week to remove third-party assessors from disputed ad valorem assessment litigation and negotiations. HB 2676 by Rep. Dick Lowe and Sen. John Michael Montgomery seeks to mitigate issues surrounding increasing and prolonged assessment disputes that have impacted school districts across the state that rely on ad valorem revenue for their operating budgets. The bill is now ready for consideration by the governor.
Several bills of interest to Farm Bureau members pertaining to Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry were passed by both chambers during the 2022 legislative session. Stay tuned this week for OKFB’s thorough review of this year’s medical marijuana legislation and an outlook on what legal changes are expected in the marijuana industry.