Rep. Newton talks about gun bills, abandoned burial plots, school carryovers at Friday's Eggs & Issues
February 17, 2019
Rep. Carl Newton was in Alva Friday to talk about current legislation, including gun bills. He spoke during the Chamber of Commerce's regular “Legislative Eggs and Issues” Community Coffee, held this time at Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
Constitutional Carry Bill
The first topic he addressed was legislation surrounding guns. Of the three or four bills regarding guns currently being considered in the State Legislature, the House passed HB 2597, referred to as a constitutional carry bill. The bill would still have to pass the Senate to become law.
“It is your constitutional right to carry a gun, to bear arms,” said Newton. “I prefer the method where there's training before they take them down the streets, but that's not the bill we have.”
HB2597 “did put some limitations in there,” Newton said “Right now there's no hand guns can be carried onto college campus. That doesn't mean you couldn't carry a shotgun or a rifle. But this bill changed it to firearms, so there will be no firearms that can be carried on college campuses,” he said.
The bill also added a penalty to taking a gun into a private business that does not allow guns on the premises. “If you, as a store owner or private business person, don't want anybody to have a gun in your place but they do, right now you can just tell them to leave,” Newton said. “This (bill) would increase it to a fine, so if you decide to push that motion then they would be fined for bringing a gun into your place.”
Those are the two restrictions the bill would add to existing gun law in Oklahoma.
“Other than that, it does allow people to carry guns openly or concealed in other places unless you have domestic abuse charges, a felony conviction or any behavioral issues,” he said. “Any of those things, you cannot have a gun.”
Newton said he prefers a bill that Sen. Murdock brought in the Senate, because it retains training and certification. He asked Murdock to clarify that bill.
“You still have to do the testing,” said Murdock, “but once you do the testing, that's your certificate. What I got rid of was sending $300 to the state to take your constitutional rights.”
“So that I prefer,” said Newton, “but I didn't get that choice – yet. When they get it out of the Senate, I would be happy to vote for that.”
Bill to Allow Abandoned Cemetery Plots to Be Resold
Three of Newton's bills passed out of committee last week, he said. The first, HB 1208, introduced by Newton, was based on requests from his Alva constituents, he said. It passed committee by a vote of 13-1.
This bill would allow cemeteries to use an unused plot that someone had purchased but who had then had no further contact with the cemetery for 75 years.
“What it does is after 75 years of no contact with the cemetery, that plot would be considered abandoned,” Newton said. After 75 years, the cemetery would search for the heirs, and “a certified letter (would be) published in the newspaper for three weeks that we have these plots that we can declare as abandoned,” Newton explained, “and after a year's period, then those (plots) would be considered abandoned and could be re-used by the cemetery for someone else.”
The text of the bill reads: “After a period of 75 years since the last recorded activity on a burial space (…) and after a reasonable search for heirs and beneficiaries, an unused burial site shall be abandoned and the right of ownership in the burial site shall revert to the private or public cemetery....”
A “reasonable search” includes “a. sending a certified letter of notice by the entity responsible for the cemetery to the last-known address of the record property owner; however, if no address is available, then no letter shall be required, and b. publishing a copy of the description of the abandoned burial space in a newspaper (…) in the county of the last-known address of the record owner for three weeks; however, if no address is available, then publication shall take place in the county where the burial space is located.”
If no one proves ownership of the burial plot within a year of the publication, the plot is deemed abandoned. However, “Any person with a legitimate claim to a burial space that has been deemed abandoned (…) and has been used or sold by the private or public cemetery shall have the claim settled by receiving an equal burial space in an equivalent location as the burial space that reverted to the private or public cemetery.”
Bill Would Make Licensing 3+ Vehicles More Convenient
The second of his bills, Newton said, was also based on a constituent request.
“Right now on commercial vehicles you have to have a pretty large fleet before you can get all your tags at one time,” he said. “I've minimized that down to three commercial vehicles. If you have three commercial vehicles or more you can get all your vehicles licensed at one time. The state chamber of commerce liked it so much they said they support it,” he said.
Bill to Allow Schools to Keep Carryovers
“The third one is one that is a personal issue to me; it's a northwest Oklahoma kind of issue,” Newton said. “We're pushing it, and I think we can get it off the floor, but I don't know what the Senate side will do with it.”
Schools in northwest Oklahoma are “off the formula,” and so don't receive instruction-related funds from the state, he said. However, many do receive transportation-related state funds. As things stand now, he said, “if you have a large carryover for your school you're penalized up to 15 percent, or something like that,” which he said is taken from the transportation funds.
“What they do is say you're off the formula – you're not getting state money – so they cut into your transportation aid,” he said. “Right now, all schools get some form of transportation aid that I'm aware of. I think they all do.”
Newton's bill “would do away with that. My goal here is to be able to carry more money over” to fund things like teacher pay raises, he said. “It'll be on the floor in the next few weeks.”
Other House Bills
Marijuana – “In the next two or three weeks you'll see a lot of marijuana bills,” Newton said. “The marijuana commission is bringing back their recommendations. The reason I like this one: neither group's happy, so it's probably fairly reasonable.”
Genetically Modified Meat – A bill that “just passed off the house committee,” said Newton, would say that anything registered as meat, or a beef product or chicken product, cannot be genetically made, can't be made in a lab.”