Secretary Blayne Arthur Reflects on Legislative Session, Thanks Leaders for Budget ConsiderationsThu, 16 May 2019 16:32:11 CDT
The 2019 Oklahoma Legislative Session is nearing its close as state legislators work to tie up loose ends during the final budget process that has been ongoing over the past few weeks. Overall, the state’s agricultural industry and its various stakeholders have been generally pleased with the outcomes of this year’s session. Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur embodies that shared sentiment as the figurehead of Oklahoma’s collective rural community. She offered her perspective on the achievements made to progress and advance rural Oklahoma during this session in a conversation this week with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“It certainly has been a very busy session for us at the Department of Agriculture and for all our agriculture groups who spend time at the Capitol,” Arthur said. “Lots of good things believe have gone through the process and very glad Governor Stitt has signed a lot of those bills that are very important to us both at the Department and the ag community here in Oklahoma.”
Yesterday, Gov. Kevin Stitt, House Speaker Charles McCall, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat announced a deal that was struck this week regarding the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. According to the announcement made by Gov. Stitt, the budget deal, which he described as “historic,” includes no new taxes, allocates $200 million more in savings as increases the state’s investment in core services by more than five percent.
In regard to agriculture, the Governor’s budget earmarks $500,000 to fund a public-private partnership to maintain clean water in Northeast Oklahoma and areas with high poultry density; $90,000 to hire an additional state veterinarian; $1.1 million for Wildfire mitigation funding and additional resources for rural fire fighters; and $1.5 million to improve rural flood control dams. It also appropriates $62.8 million for a Graduate Medical Education program to support physician training for rural hospitals; restores $30 million in funding to CIRB supporting county roads; and fully funds the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s 8-year infrastructure plan. Finally, the budget also clarifies the Administration’s plan to address education and teacher pay raises that has been highly speculated since the beginning of the budget process. According to Gov. Stitt’s release, the deal includes a $203 million increase for public education across the spectrum with an $1,220 on average teacher pay raise.
“We follow the budget process closely,” Arthur commented, “and appreciate the support of members of the Oklahoma legislature this year towards important animal health, conservation, extension and rural issues.”
Aside from the budget process though, Arthur and her staff have also been following closely the progress of a “trailer bill” introduced after Oklahoma’s Industrial Hemp Bill was signed into law earlier in the session. This bill essentially ‘cleans up’ language in the previous bill that was disputed by the Farm Service Agency that filed claims that suggested problems could arise for certain program participants from the way in which the bill originally read. Arthur says this bill has finally made it out of committee and will hopefully soon reach the Governor’s desk in time for farmers to get their industrial hemp crop in the ground before the planting window comes to a close. When this trailer bill was filed, the window was already very close leaving speculation on whether or not the process would conclude quickly enough. Fortunately, recent rains have delayed planting and extended that window. An emergency clause included in the bill will allow it to go into effect immediately once the Governor signs it.
As session winds down, Arthur says ODAFF staff is gearing up for a busy summer ahead.
“Certainly, staff is staying very busy,” she said, “but lots of exciting things happening at the Department.”
Learn more about what Arthur has on her agenda for this summer post-session and hear her full reflection on this year’s legislative achievements from an agricultural perspective, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
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