Legislators talk about current legislative session


February 23, 2024

Marione Martin

Sen. Casey Murdock answers questions from the audience at the Alva Chamber Community Coffee held at NWOSU last Friday.

Local legislators talked about what's happening in Oklahoma City during the current legislative session at the Alva Chamber Community Coffee Friday, Feb. 16. The breakfast meeting was held in the Ranger Room of the Student Center on the Northwestern Oklahoma State University campus.

Field representatives for members of Congress spoke first. Wesley Javorsky, field representative for Rep. Frank Lucas, said the farm bill is reworked about every five years. It should have happened last year but it didn't, and it is in a kind of limbo. This is due to the government not being fully funded. With slim party majorities in the House and Senate, the government is being funded by continuing resolutions every 60 days. Once the resolutions are passed to fully fund the government, then Congress can move on to actually pass the farm bill. The farm bill was extended 12 months as part of the continuing resolutions, so it is okay until the end of September.

Peyton Burns, field representative for Sen. James Lankford, said the senator serves on the finance committee, the ethics committee, the intelligence committee and homeland security. He spoke about Lankford's recent legislation to try to control the flow of illegal immigrants on the southern border.

Senator Casey Murdock

"Someone told me about getting 'love letters' about me in the mail. If you're in Oklahoma City, and you're being effective and you scare people, they don't like what you're doing, they go after you," said Sen. Casey Murdock. He doesn't know which group is behind the missives, but the return address is in Wisconsin. He thinks it might be because he ran for pro tem of the senate. "It's dark money. I ran for pro tem. That race was this last week; I did not win," he said. "If it stops, it was because I was running for pro tem, and they wanted to give me headaches in district while I was running."

Murdock spoke about a sports book bill he authored, which is not an exclusive compact with the tribes. If passed, his bill would allow anybody to open a sports book in the state.

"I think our country and state is so divided. It is one group against another group," he said. "I want to treat everybody fair. If we're going to allow a business in the state of Oklahoma, why say this group can do it but you can't." He said there's another bill running that gives exclusive rights to the tribes which he thinks is more likely to succeed.

A Murdock bill that was in process last year will be heard this year. It adds another individual to the board of the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO). "Right now, the trust that oversees the CLO is the governor, lt. governor, secretary of ag, the attorney general, the state auditor and the school superintendent. I want to add an at large position of a layman that is in rural Oklahoma because the majority of CLO land is in rural Oklahoma. We should have a voice on that board of trustees on the direction the CLO is going.

"I'm not targeting CLO, but I have a bill that the government cannot own more than 15 percent of a county. The CLO owns 750,000 acres in the state of Oklahoma. The majority of it is in Cimarron County. They own 20 percent of the entire county. That's the county I live in. I have seen firsthand how the government owning that much property in a county affects the economy of the county."

Murdock spoke about his bill to require those selling property to disclose any conservation easement on that property. He also has a bill on retirement for emergency medical service employees.

Representative Carl Newton

Rep. Carl Newton is fairly certain the legislature will vote to remove the state portion of sales from grocery sales. He said city and county sales tax collections would not be affected.

Newton said he has five bills that have been approved in committee so they can be heard in the house. One involves medical care, making sure that care is approved up front by insurance so patients will know the cost before the treatment.

Newton's water meter bill has been the subject of many calls from constituents. "First of all, the OWRB (Oklahoma Water Resources Board) who would have the authority over this bill has no authority over your domestic residential water," he said. "This is only permitted water. Permitted water is industrial water, commercial water, high volume water."

Alva gets water from an underground aquifer. "What would happen to Alva if that underground aquifer dried up?" he asked. "We would have a hard time existing out here, wouldn't we?"

Last year, the water level dropped so low for the city of Cleo Springs that their wells were going dry. He said the wells were on the edge of the Cimarron Aquifer and the water level was going down. Meanwhile an irrigator on the east side of town was "punching 40 holes a month, drilling 40 wells a month to start new irrigation wells."

"I just want to make sure we're responsible stewards of this water," Newton said. "I'm repeating that. I just want you to understand where my heart is."

Marione Martin

Rep. Carl Newton talks about progress on bills in the legislature during the Alva Chamber Community Coffee last Friday.

He is also interested in encouraging more people to train as veterinarians. "Rural Oklahoma is having a problem getting large animal veterinarians," he said. "We're running short. We've had a scholarship program for medical students; we've had a scholarship program for PA's and nurse practitioners in certain areas. And so for rural Oklahoma, I've tried to set up six scholarships for large animal vets. It will pay for their education that year, but they have to serve four years in a small community specializing in large vet."

His forestry bill would change how forestry is called in to help with fires and help them in coordinating with local fire departments.

Newton's bill to lower the driving age to 14 for farm kids passed last year, but a problem came to light. Driver's education programs can only enroll students over 15.5 years of age. He's working on a bill to clean that up.

The legislators answered a few questions from the audience to conclude the program.

To see a video of the entire meeting, go to http://www.AlvaReviewCourier.com and click on the Videos button.


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