By Sen. MARK ALLEN
The Friday before session started, Lt. Governor Todd Lamb invited me to tour some Oklahoma schools with him. We toured a homeless school, a rehabilitative school for drugs and alcohol, and an autistic school. It was a very eye-opening experience that illustrated the different needs here in the state. I appreciated the opportunity to learn.
President Pro Tem Mike Schulz appointed me Sportsman’s Caucus Chair and assigned me to various Senate committees. I was appointed Transportation Committee Chair, and also serve on the Appropriations, Education, Public Safety and Judiciary Appropriations Subcommittee, Rules, and Veterans and Military Affairs Committees.
I was also elected Majority Whip by my colleagues in the Senate, so I will be very busy with that as well.
There were 30 bills assigned to the Transportation Committee, which makes for an increasingly busy schedule. It is my job to read through each bill and set the agenda to have them heard in committee. Some of the different state agencies have submitted bill requests; we have five request bills, for instance, from the Department of Public Safety.
I have filed over 20 bills this year, the most I have filed to date.
Senate Bill 99 deals with county elections which will allow all registered voters in the county to vote on county elected officials, regardless of party affiliation. It has been assigned to the Rules Committee.
I have authored numerous bills to consolidate the size and weights enforcement of trucks to the Department of Public Safety, which is the only agency in the state authorized to enforce federal motor carrier laws. Currently, three different agencies monitor that activity. My bills will include the consolidation of a new bond schedule from three different schedules into one.
SB 168 deals with consulting engineers that are employed by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The department employees (there are 136 licensed ODOT engineers on staff) – cost about 12 million dollars per year. ODOT also employs a number of consulting engineers who they rely on for project design and inspections of projects in the state. In 2016, the expenditures for consulting engineers was $123 million. As Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, I feel that it is my job to make sure taxpayer dollars are carefully spent.
SB 173 has to do with licensing utility trailers and stock trailers in the state of Oklahoma. Currently, no tags or registration are required for these trailers, which makes it virtually impossible for law enforcement to even begin a search for stolen trailers. This is not intended to be a revenue raising measure; we are trying to protect the people’s property with this bill. We are providing a method for law enforcement to be able to identify stolen property.
SB 203 restricts county sheriffs to the enforcement of size and weights on county roads only, and disallows them from enforcing size and weights on the highways, which is the job of DPS. It is my opinion that county sheriffs are elected to protect the citizens and their property in the county, not sit on the highway to weigh trucks.
SB 258 has to do with state bidding contracts. This bill simply requires a state agency that accepts a bid other than the lowest bid to provide a reason to the House and Senate within 30 days.
SB 370 deals with the blasting and mining operations of coal mines.
SB 450 is a religious freedom bill. It requires the Attorney General to protect students’ religious rights in school.
SB 480 is a request bill from a local superintendent who proposed removing the school district sinking fund from the county assessment. He told us that school district general funds are currently penalized when a district passes a bond issue. The punishment comes in the form of an increase in Visual Inspection Fees from the County Assessor’s office as prescribed by statute. His solution was to propose that school district sinking funds be eliminated from the calculation on Visual Inspection fees.
SB 658 addresses Medicaid payments to local hospitals. It encourages Medicaid patients to receive treatment at the county level so that the state can retain medical personnel and facilities in rural Oklahoma, instead of paying for out-of-state services.
Special thanks to Nurse of the Day Brandy Moore of Gore, Oklahoma, who served at the State Capitol on Wednesday, February 8. Thank you for your service!
On Friday, Feb. 10, Nikki and I attended the OCPAC Awards Dinner held to honor Oklahoma’s most Conservative legislators. I was so grateful to receive the award as runner up Senator of the Year in Conservative Values.
If the first week is any indication, 2017 promises to be a busy legislative session.
Until next time,
Senator Mark Allen
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