After beginning the 2021 legislative session with more than 3,000 bills, fewer than 1,000 bills are still alive with roughly eight weeks left before Sine Die. Next month will bring two more deadlines, as April 8 is the deadline for bills to make it out of the opposing chamber committee process and April 22 marks the deadline for bills to make it off the opposing chamber floor.
All bills must be approved by both chambers and sent to the governor for consideration by no later than 5 p.m. on May 28. OKFB expects the state Legislature to finish the majority of their legislative business by April 22 and spend the next month focused on building and approving the budget for fiscal year 2022 and redrawing House and Senate district maps.
During the first two months of session, the most concerning legislation for Farm Bureau involved the creation of a new ad valorem tax to fund county hazard mitigation districts. Introduced in both the House and Senate this year, the bills were similar to legislation that was defeated in the 2020 legislative session.
Thanks to the voices of Farm Bureau members around the state, neither bill passed their respective chambers by the March 11 deadline and will not be considered for the remainder of the 2021 session. OKFB has been concerned by the increased amount of ad valorem proposals introduced in recent legislative sessions and the willingness of legislators to pass legislation with property tax increases. As we move forward, Farm Bureau will continue to educate legislators on the negative impact such tax increases have on farmers and ranchers.
A slate of bills addressing issues related to broadband expansion passed the House and now await committee hearings in the Senate. The seven bills cover a variety of topics such as utility pole attachments, grant programs, rebates for service in unserved or underserved areas, minimum upload and download speeds, and mapping data submissions. Broadband access is a multibillion-dollar endeavor that will take many years to achieve and will take buy-in from federal, state and local governments in addition to providers and private citizens. Farm Bureau is appreciative that the state Legislature is making broadband access a priority issue by doing the difficult but necessary foundational work to expand broadband across the state.
As the 2021 session continues, Farm Bureau will continue working with legislators on bills supported by farmers and ranchers such as legislation that prohibits nuisance lawsuits against producers for carrying out normal production practices, protects private property rights by requiring state agencies to enclose their land used for livestock grazing, and removes the burden of posting requirements from landowners.
OKFB members are encouraged to stay engaged throughout the remainder of the legislative session by signing up for action alerts, tuning into weekly legislative update calls, and watching weekly Lincoln to Local video updates. For questions about Farm Bureau’s work at the state Capitol, contact OKFB public policy staff at (405) 523-2300.