Last week marked the last major policy deadline ahead of the final legislative deadline on May 27 when the legislature must adjourn for the 2022 session.
HB 4413 by Rep. Dick Lowe and Sen. John Michael Montgomery passed the Senate this week with the title stricken. This bill would remove third-party assessors from disputed ad valorem assessment litigation and negotiations while still allowing them to be utilized to make the initial assessment. HB 4413 seeks to mitigate issues surrounding increasing and prolonged assessment disputes that have handicapped school districts across the state that rely on ad valorem revenue.
While HB 4413 has made its way through the legislative process this year, county assessors have expressed their concern that removing third-party assessors – who often have the knowledge and expertise needed to assess complicated and high-value items like equipment used by the wind energy sector – could result in a disparity during litigation and negotiations if the protesting party is allowed to have an assessment expert as part of their legal team.
HB 4413 will now move either to conference between the two chambers or back to the House for further consideration.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau discovered new language this week in a bill seeking to allow county commissioners to use federal funds received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) without significant oversight from the state. The new clause was added into HB 2233 by Rep. Lonnie Sims and Sen. John Haste to broaden the scope of county authority and would not be limited to CARES Act funding; it could also allow counties the authority to zone in rural, unincorporated areas.
Farm Bureau members were successful at the beginning of the 2022 legislative session in defeating two bills that sought to give counties the authority to create and enforce rules, regulations, policies, procedures and codes deemed necessary by the county so long as the state had not explicitly prohibited such action. OKFB will continue to seek the removal of county zoning language in HB 2233.
While several medical marijuana bills have moved steadily this year, some have failed deadlines due to hang-ups between the two chambers and members of each body.
One bill that got caught in the crossfire was SB 1261 by Senator Brent Howard and Rep. John Pfeiffer. SB 1261 looked to limit compensation for crops and plants damaged by unintentional spray drift to those that are insurable und the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation program. The goal of SB 1261 was to give more certainty to farmers, ranchers and applicators after many were unable to spray during the 2021 season due to uncertainty of medical marijuana grow locations and concern of financial liability if the crop was unintentionally damaged.
HB 3827 by Rep. Mike Dobrinski and Sen. Casey Murdock, another bill that could have helped alleviate concerns for farmers and ranchers spraying their crops and pastures, also failed to advance. HB 3827 would have required outdoor medical marijuana growers licensed by the state to register as an environmentally sensitive crop with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Requiring registration would have allowed private and commercial pesticide applicators to know the location of outdoor marijuana grows and minimize the concern of damaging a neighboring marijuana grow.
For an update on weekly happenings at the Capitol and an outlook on what is ahead, be sure to tune in to Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s weekly public policy update each Friday at noon via Zoom.