State News: Legislative News Updates

Senator Kay Floyd introduces bill codifying school library policies

OKLAHOMA CITY — Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, has filed legislation to place school library policies already in use in Oklahoma into state law. Senate Bill 1640 would codify the policies used by the Oklahoma Library Association and the Oklahoma State School Boards Association to select, deselect, and reconsider library media materials.

“Some Oklahomans may not be aware of the long-standing policies our school libraries have in place to determine what materials are in their collections, and the process for filing complaints about any of those materials, which also includes an appeal process,” Floyd said. . “My goal is to help clarify and publicize these rules and procedures.”

SB 1640 was assigned to the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee. These committees, and others, will begin reviewing the legislation after the 2022 session on February 7.

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Obstacles to the Employment Focus of Bipartisan Licensing Legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY — A bipartisan measure tabled for the 2022 legislative session would remove employment barriers for Oklahomans released from prison.

House Bill 3002, by Senator Zack Taylor and Representative Cyndi Munson, changes the requirements and qualifications for five professional licenses. Licensing Changes Involve Oklahoma Scrap Dealers, Oklahoma Liquor Control Act, Motor Vehicle Dealers, Used Motor Vehicle Dealers, and Micropigmentation Regulation Act from Oklahoma.

The legislation maintains the ability of the licensing entity to review an applicant’s criminal history, but must also determine whether the applicant’s crime is related to the occupation and poses a reasonable threat to public safety.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted labor shortages in our state. Addressing barriers to entry into licensure-required occupations is one solution to integrating Oklahomans into the workforce, especially those who have previously been incarcerated,” said Munson, D-Oklahoma City. “There has been an incredible effort to update our laws to allow a second chance for Oklahomans who have served their time, participated in rehabilitation programs and are now ready to re-enter the workforce.

“When Oklahomans have the opportunity to be productive citizens, recidivism rates go down, communities are safer, and our taxpayer dollars are used for less expensive programs and services that focus on restoration, not on punishment.”

HB3002 provides more employment opportunities for Oklahomans who have been incarcerated and are ready to join Oklahoma’s workforce. This legislation prioritizes the growth of Oklahoma’s workforce and public safety.

“Growing and strengthening our workforce are priorities for me and always have been. To achieve these goals, we must ensure that every Oklahoman has every opportunity to enter the workforce,” said Taylor, R-Seminole. “This legislation gives thousands of Oklahomans a second chance to become productive citizens in our communities. When Oklahomans can work, our communities are safer and stronger.

To provide information about HB3002 or to contact Representative Cyndi Munson’s office, call (405) 557-7392 or email [email protected]

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Burns files measure to grant tax exemptions to certain rural hospitals

OKLAHOMA CITY — In an effort to keep rural hospitals serving their communities, Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, introduced Senate Bill 1774, which would allow certain hospitals to qualify for a tax exemption on the sale of personal goods or services for hospital use.

To qualify for the exemption, hospitals must meet certain criteria. These include being housed in a building owned by a county or municipality; be operated by a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization; and be located in a county with a population of less than 100,000 people.

“Almost half of all Oklahomans live in a rural area of ​​the state, so it’s critical that our hospitals in these areas are open and available to serve our citizens,” Burns said. “Unfortunately, more than 80 rural hospitals across the country have closed over the past decade. Providing hospitals that operate as a nonprofit with a tax exemption will help keep their doors open so they can continue to provide high-quality health care to Oklahomans who need it most.

A national study by the Chartis Center for Rural Health found that although rural hospitals have received federal stimulus funds throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, about 25% of such facilities in the United States are at risk of closing. in 2022.

“Stimulus funds have provided these hospitals with short-term solutions, but we need to think outside the box to give rural health care long-term stability,” Burns said. “This is just one of the ways we can support our rural hospitals and provide them with operational relief so they can better serve our citizens.”

The measure has been referred to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees and will be up for hearing when the legislative session begins Feb. 7.

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Hamilton files measure banning foreign companies from buying Oklahoma land

OKLAHOMA CITY — As a rancher in southeast Oklahoma, Sen. Warren Hamilton has seen the impact of Oklahoma land being purchased by foreign entities. Republican McCurtain says it’s time for the legislature to put a stop to these deals and has introduced Senate Bill 1469 to clarify that foreign ownership of Oklahoma land is prohibited, even by business entities and corporations. trusts.

“As the marijuana industry in Oklahoma continues to grow, we have seen an increasing number of foreign interests enter our state and buy up our farmland for astronomical sums to establish crops and other related businesses” , Hamilton said. “While Oklahoma law already prevents foreign land ownership, it does not prevent these people from starting businesses to buy property. Senate Bill 1469 will end this workaround of the current law. of State.

According to reports from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Oklahoma is one of 14 states in the country with more than one million acres of foreign-owned land, joining Texas, l ‘Arkansas and New Mexico on the list. Oklahoma is also one of 14 states that currently restrict or prohibit foreign ownership of US private farmland.

Although Hamilton’s bill is specific to Oklahoma, foreign ownership of land is a national issue. Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would prevent non-US citizens from investing in and owning US farmland. Data from the Congressional Research Service shows that foreign individuals or entities hold ownership of nearly three percent of all private farmland across the country.

“This is America,” Hamilton said. “To own a piece of it, you have to be American. Allowing a foreign entity to own a piece of America is treason – such madness may be allowed in places like California, but it should never happen here in Oklahoma. I am confident that my colleagues will understand the urgent need to close the loophole in current state law and end foreign land ownership in our state.

The measure has been referred to the Judiciary Committee and will be heard during the February 7 legislative session.

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