Today is Conservation Day at the Capitol. Thanks to all the people who work in the Conservation Districts and volunteer their time on the Board. Yesterday the wind was blowing so hard that as I drove to Keyes, I was almost blown off the road several times. The dust almost obscured the town at times. I shudder to think what it would have been like without our Conservation Districts that have been a part of Oklahoma since the Dust Bowl.
We are in one of the most severe droughts in its history. It is a testament to the dedication and work of the districts in partnership with the landowners that we are not seeing another dust bowl this year. These districts work together with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to protect our soil, water, air, and wildlife habitat through voluntary cooperation.
The need for these conservation measures is even more necessary with this season of wild fires that we have had this year. The public owes a huge debt to those volunteer and paid firefighters that have been willing to put their lives on the line to protect homes and land. They have done a tremendous job keeping the fires and their damage to a minimum.
A recent supplemental that was passed marked the down payment in paying the departments an extra $3.6 million to help offset some of these costs. This will be a moving target since the cost will keep rising this year. Near the end of the session there will be another appropriation for these departments that will include a full reimbursement for the costs incurred this spring.
There is a commitment from House leadership to protect rural Oklahoma . This includes rural volunteer fire departments. Like last year, however, these bills will come later in the session. This is just part of the process of getting business done in an orderly and methodical method. Obviously firefighting bills will be heard during the appropriation process, but not now.
As a result no bills were heard on Friday and are part of the agenda this week. This week already had the maximum number of bills that could be heard. As a result some bills that passed out of committee, will not be heard this week. Some major reforms will be considered next week including education reform, lawsuit reform, tax relief reform, Medicaid reform and REDI (Rural Economic Development Initiative) bills.
Last week several measures passed that were aimed at keeping track of sex offenders. Rep Billy authored a measure that would make them renew driver's license every year. Another bill that I authored would require them to take lie detector tests semiannually. Another bill by Rep Morgan would allow some criminals to be declared a “sexually violent predator” ensuring that they will be kept in state custody.
One measure that passed, called Kelsey's Law, is designed to protect children from abuse. This measure is named after a two-year old from Meeker that died last year from blunt force trauma. This bill is part of a three-pronged Keeping Oklahoma Kids Safe Initiative by House Leadership. This week many other major pieces of legislation will pass that will help make Oklahoma families safer and more secure.
Boise City News