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Agricultural News

Cattle Theft, Red Cedars and the Compelling State Interest of Water Among Bills Passing House and Heading to the Senate on Thursday

Thu, 10 Mar 2016 20:00:59 CST

Cattle Theft, Red Cedars and the Compelling State Interest of Water Among Bills Passing House and Heading to the Senate on Thursday March 10th was an important day at the Oklahoma State Capitol. For a bill to stay alive for the reminder of the legislative session, it had to be passed out of its respective body. In other words, a House measure had to be voted on and approved by the full House and a Senate bill had to have had a yes vote by close of business today in the Oklahoma Senate.

One of the higher profile proposals for 2016 that did not make it out of either body was the so called School Voucher bill. House Bill 2949 was authored by Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City and would have created Education Savings Accounts for Oklahomans. Nelson expressed disappointment and said in a statement on Thursday afternoon "Unfortunately, the misinformation campaign from the educational esstablishment continues. ESAs would give more options to more parents and their children AND it would increase per pupil funding for students in our public schools hlping teachers in our classrooms."

Cattle Theft

Several bills of interest to Oklahoma Agricuture were considered by lawmakers on this final day to keep those measures alive- and that includes the Cattle Rustling Bill authored by John Pfeiffer and strongly promoted by the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association. HB 2504 passed with a 71-21 vote. "The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association (OCA) is very appreciative of Representative John Pfeiffer of Mulhall for patiently working this important bill through the House," said Michael Kelsey, Executive Vice President of the OCA. "We also want to thank all of our members who called into the Capitol in support of the bill the past two weeks. Your efforts definitely helped pass the bill."

"OCA also would like to thank Speaker Hickman, House Ag Committee Chairman John Enns and Vice Chairman Scott Biggs for their help with the bill. HB 2504 will now move to the Senate where Senator Ron Justice will guide it through the process."

Red Cedar Legislation

HB 2748 was also approved on Thursday- and it's author called it a victory in the battle against Eastern Red Cedar trees. "I want to thank my colleagues for supporting this latest effort to gain control of Eastern Red Cedar proliferation in the state. Our original effort, HB2686-2010, was a good starting point, and we better understand the issue now, as a result of the Registry Board, but without a focal point person to whom our farmers, ranchers and urbanites can reach out to, the effort is just too bulky and pluralized to get off the ground.", stated Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OKC), the bill's author who has fought for the legislation for more than six years.

"Our greatest need is community outreach. We need 'boots on the ground', assisting communities, rural and urban, in identifying solutions for those whose acreage is being eaten up by cedar to push out cattle from grazing, wildlife from habitat, creating fire hazards, water loss and allergen related public health emergencies. We need to take the data offered by those affected and seek grants for remedies. Our state budget is such that we need the bill in its current form to reach our goal without the need for public tax dollars. HB2748 sets up a structure for grants to be received and combined with funding from the Eastern Red Cedar Revolving Fund, enabling the Oklahoma Conservation Commission to eventually employ a state coordinator."

With the passage in the House by a vote of 57 to 37, the bill will now be championed by Republican Patrick Anderson of Enid in the Senate.

Water as a Compelling State Interest

House Bill 2446 seems to be a bill that offers a solution to the fears of eastern Oklahoma groups who have been criticizing State Question 777, the Right to Farm Amendment to be voted on this fall. Within the language of the proposed Amendment to the State Constitution, it says that Oklahoma lawmakers may not infringe upon the right of farmers and ranchers in the state to utilize accepted farming practices unless there is a "compelling state interest." Well, the fear raised by critics of SQ777 is that what a compelling state interest can be is murky at best. So several lawmakers offered this up- most ag groups that support SQ777 said making water a compelling state interest is fine by them- and the measure was approved in the House by a 59 to 36 vote.

Among the groups who were listed on a flier circulated by the bill's author, Terry O'Donnell, were the Oklahoma Cattlemen, American Farmers and Ranchers, Oklahoma Pork Council, Oklahoma Cotton Council, Oklahoma Agribusiness Retailers and the Oklahoma Council for Ag Coops.



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