As we move into the third week of the 2022 legislative session, both chambers have been busy considering legislation through committee work. The first deadline of the session is approaching on March 3rd, giving the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate only two more weeks to pass new legislation out of its assigned committee. Following the March 3rd deadline, both chambers will move into a three-week period of floor work.
This year’s session is one that will be marked with a significant budget surplus, which has already led to extensive discussion about what to do with the extra funds. While some state leaders believe the surplus will best serve Oklahomans by padding the state’s savings account in preparation for tighter fiscal years, others think it best to use the surplus to increase funding to education, roads and bridges and other state-appropriated purposes. Additionally, the surplus has the capitol buzzing with talk of eliminating the state’s portion of the grocery sales tax as well as proposals to cut the state’s personal and corporate income tax. As Oklahoma Farm Bureau members have long held concerns regarding the effect cutting taxes on sales and income could have on state revenue, and the fear that revenue losses would be recouped by increasing ad valorem taxes, we will continue engaging in discussions with legislators to ensure the concerns of Oklahoma farmers and ranchers are considered in legislation that impacts state revenue and taxes.
After an interim marked by constituent concern and complaint over the lack of regulation in the medical marijuana industry, legislators have wasted no time moving legislation that aims to address issues of enforcement and oversight and seeks to give farmers and ranchers more certainty when conducting routine agricultural practices.
SB 1261 by Sen. Bren Howard would limit compensation for crops and plants damaged by unintentional spray drift to those insurable under the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation program or that are sold directly to the consumer by the producer. In addition, compensation cannot exceed the amount the producer has received from a proven yield from the area impacted by the drift, and any claims for a sensitive crop must have been registered with the Department of Agriculture fourteen days prior to the incident. The goal of SB 1261 is to give more certainty to farmers, ranchers and applicators after many were unable to spray during the 2021 season due to concern of unknown financial liability and uncertainty medical marijuana grows that they could be unaware of and unintentionally damage the crop. SB 1261 has passed out of committee and now awaits full Senate consideration.
HB 4432 by Rep. Kenton Patzkowsky would require all medical marijuana growers to post a conspicuous sign at the entrance to their growing site that lists the business name, physical address, phone number and medical marijuana license number. SB 1737 by Sen. Blake Stephens, and SB 1779 by Sen. Shane Jett would require signage to be posted at any medical marijuana business with the license number and phone number that is accessible to the public. SB 1779 has been passed from its assigned committee while HB 4432 and SB 1737 still await committee consideration. Oklahoma Farm Bureau members adopted policy at the 2021 annual meeting supporting required signage at marijuana businesses so the public can know where licensed medical marijuana facilities are located. State medical marijuana regulators have indicated that clear signage will assist them in knowing where legally licensed businesses are and could also help them identify suspected marijuana businesses that are not marked and may not be operating in compliance with state law and rules.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau members have long been opposed to any law giving counties authority to increase regulation or create zoning. HB 2990 by Rep. Carol Bush and SB 1182 by Sen. Dave Rader could allow a county to create and enforce any rule, regulation, policy, procedure, or code they deemed necessary as long as there was not any state rule or law that specifically prohibited them from doing so. Currently counties can only create or enforce rules, regulations, and policies directly specified by the state. If passed, HB 2990 and SB 1182 would create significant uncertainty for producers in the affected counties. Each county could create their own regulations in unincorporated, rural Oklahoma that could increase burden on farmers and ranchers, restrict them from conducting their normal agricultural practices or potentially prohibit them entirely from operating within the county. HB 2990 will be considered in the House County and Municipal Government Committee on Monday, Feb. 21. SB 1182 has not yet been placed on an agenda but could be heard by the Senate General Government committee as early as Thursday, Feb. 24.
OKFB’s policy team has been urging legislators to oppose these bills and have educated them on how such legislation could negatively impact rural Oklahoma as a whole and farms and ranchers specifically. It is important for Farm Bureau members to know who their legislators are in preparation for a potential call to action if either bill receives consideration on the House or Senate floors.
For questions or more information, please contact the OKFB Public Policy division at (405) 523-2300.