After 'Strange Start' Legislative Session has been Good for Farmers and Ranchers, Collison SaysThu, 20 Mar 2014 11:30:12 CDT
The current Oklahoma legislative session got off to a strange start with a change of leadership in the House of Representatives said Oklahoma Farm Bureau's John Collison, but it didn't hamper their efforts to advance legislation beneficial to Oklahoma's farmers and ranchers.
At the midpoint of the session, Collison spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays about progress so far in the legislature. (You can catch their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story. Collison will also appear on this weekend's "In the Field" segment on News 9 Saturday about 6:40 a.m.)
"We were able to pass HJR 1006 or the Rep. Scott Biggs, Sen. Eddie Fields Bill which is the right to farm. So, that bill is moving over to the Senate and hopefully we'll have it up this next Monday in the Senate Ag Committee and then onto the floor for a pass and a vote of the people come November."
Collison said they are watching a couple of property tax bills very closely. There are also some property rights bills concerning wind energy that are also getting close scrutiny. He said it is very important that purchasers of property have the freedom to do with it what they envision when they make the purchase.
Another bill that would ease the bureaucratic oversight of the peanut and wheat commissions is also moving along fine, he said.
With the changeover of House bills to the Senate and vice versa at the midpoint, Collison said there were some bills left behind.
"Over 2,000 bills were filed. I'm not sure there's 2,000 things wrong in the state of Oklahoma, nor were the members out there. There were some trespassing bills that were left behind. Now, these bills are dead. Next year we'll have to go into another session and there's no carryover. They will have to be rewritten. So some trespassing bills got left behind; that's OK. Some ad valorem tax increases got left behind which is OK with us. And, so, I think the bills that are moving forward, for the most part, are decent or have some decent leadership pushing them."
Collison said politics is in full swing at the state capitol ahead of next November's general election. At least 30 lawmakers will not return due to term limits. The entire House is up for election and many districts in the Senate. There will also be a race for the governor's seat.
"Everyone's running. Politics today is in play. It's in full swing in every decision that's going on-and that's just the nature of the game. Every decision that's going on is with someone looking out for their future, so trying to navigate through that is a little bit interesting, but this is a year that we're seeing more politics than normal."
Returning to the issue of "right to farm," Collison said polling shows there is overwhelming support in Oklahoma for the measure. Its importance is illustrated by the recent California law pushed by animal rights groups that imposes regulations on the production methods of out-of-state egg producers.
"That's just the beginning. These organizations, these animal rights groups have self-avowed to put an end to animal agriculture. This is a bill to protect us into the future to make sure that we can farm and ranch using modern agricultural practices because we have to feed 10 billion people in the world and that's not easy to do when you have to give chickens air conditioning, satin beds and condominiums to live in."
Collison said they will also continue to work with the governor's office over the source of funding for school storm shelters. He said they want to find an alternative to an ad valorem tax increase to get the shelters built.
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