Legislative update: Vet bill vetoed, groundwater permitting bill moves forward

The last legislative deadline week ahead of sine die was met with gridlock at 23rd and Lincoln. The major issue affecting nonrelated legislation is the difference of opinion over an education package and tax cuts. The House and the governor have spent most of the session in nearly lockstep on both of those issues while the Senate has had a considerably different opinion.

This week the governor began vetoing nearly all Senate bills on his desk, issuing a message that he would continue doing so until the Senate threw their support behind his education and tax cut plans. The Senate responded by voting down several of the governor’s executive nominations.

Typically, at this point in the legislative session, attention turns toward budget negotiations. However, with current relations between the two chambers and the governor’s office, there seems to be no budget in sight.

One bill that was vetoed this week was HB 2863 by Rep. Kevin Wallace and Sen. Chris Kidd. The bill would have created the Oklahoma State University Veterinary Medicine Authority,which would have given the College of Veterinary Medicine flexibility and oversight in the funding and operations of the vet school. Gov. Stitt vetoed the bill due to the ability it would have given the authority to make and issue bonds worth up to $50 million.

HB 2863 passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities, so there is still a possibility that the House and Senate could eventually override the veto.

HB 2053 by Rep. David Hardin and Sen. Brent Howard received Senate approval this week. The Senate version was amended from the version sent over by the House, so the bill will have to be approved a second time by the House before the governor could consider the legislation.

HB 2053 clarifies who qualifies as an interested party in a groundwater permit application protest. Specifically, those appealing a groundwater permit based solely on the industry or entity applying to use the water are not to be considered an interested party, and such claims would be considered frivolous, opening the protestor up to court sanctions.

Both chambers approved modified education packages. The House version models similar ideas as the education plan unveiled last week by Gov. Stitt. The House plan would still send additional funding to school districts across the state and would cap the funds any one school district can receive at $2 million. Additionally, the House approved an update to their teacher pay raise plan that matches the governor’s plan. Instead of a flat raise for all teachers across the state, raises would be between $2,000 and $5,000 based on the teacher’s years of service. The Senate’s version still contains merit-based stipends for teachers, the largest teacher pay raise, and additional per-pupil funding based on the state education funding formula.

It could be an interesting May as we barrel toward the May 26th sine die deadline with broken-down relations at the Capitol, more vetoes expected, and no budget on the horizon.

For an update on weekly happenings at the Capitol and an outlook on what is ahead, be sure to tune in to Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s Weekly Public Policy Update each Friday at noon.

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