Both chambers returned to the Capitol this week with full committee schedules. Since no House committees met last week and only a handful of Senate committees took up legislation, legislators only had two weeks of committee work to advance their bills through committee and onto chamber floors.
HB 2053 by Rep. David Hardin and Sen. Brent Howard passed out of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee Thursday. HB 2053 clarifies who qualifies as an interested party in a groundwater permit application protest. Specifically, those appealing a groundwater permit based solely on the industry or entity applying to utilize the water are not to be considered an interested party, and such claims would be considered frivolous opening the protestor up to court sanctions.
The bill would also allow the applicant to continue utilizing the groundwater approved by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board if the board’s decision is appealed by an interested party.
SB 133 by Sen. David Bullard and Rep. John Pfeiffer also received further approval this week passing out of the House Appropriations & Budget Finance Subcommittee. SB 133 would exempt growing, harvesting and processing marijuana from the definition of what qualifies as an agricultural product for those applying for an agricultural sales tax exemption. This bill comes as there has been mounting frustration over the past three years that medical marijuana producers have easier access to an ag sales tax exemption permit than traditional agricultural producers.
HB 1006 by Rep. Rick West and Sen. Casey Murdock was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Legislation originally introduced but not signed into law during the 2022 Legislative Session, HB 1006 would require schools to excuse absences by 4-H students when they miss class due to a scheduled and approved 4-H activity. While many schools across the state already record such absences as excused, there is no statutory requirement resulting in some students receiving an unexcused absence when missing school for an approved 4-H activity. This can result in official and legal discipline if a student has five or more unexcused absences in a semester.
HB 2863 by Rep. Kevin Wallace and Sen. Chris Kidd received approval from the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on Monday. HB 2863 creates the Oklahoma State University Veterinary Medicine Authority Act. This would give OSU College of Veterinary Medicine a similar authority as OSU and OU’s medical schools have in order to provide OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine a dependable source of funding and a more efficient and effective way to carry out its mission and purpose. This authority will support the College of Veterinary Medicine by entering into academic affiliation agreements to support training programs, operating or leasing the operation of the teaching animal hospitals, and providing care for the animal patient of OSU veterinarian trainers.
Another deadline week greets us next week and will undoubtedly be a busy one as legislators work to ensure the survival of their bills. We will then turn back to floor work for the remainder of April as the last Thursday of the month will be the final day for all bills to be passed off the floor opposite their chamber of origin.
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.