Stillwater state lawmakers joined the Stillwater League of Women Voters, Stillwater Public Library and Friends of the Stillwater Public Library on Thursday for their annual “Meet Your Legislators” forum. Due to concerns about COVID-19, Rep. Ty Burns, R-Morrison, Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater, and Senator Tom Dugger, R-Stillwater appeared via Zoom. The forum was shared as a Facebook Live event.
Senator Chuck Hall, R-Perry, now represents northern Payne County and part of western Payne County extending southwest from Stillwater west of Country Club Road. The area was added to District 20 during the redistricting. Hall was unable to participate because he had another commitment, said moderator Gladeen Allred.
Each lawmaker gave a brief outline of their priorities for the session that begins Feb. 7.
Burns represents House District 35, which includes parts of Payne, Noble Pawnee, Osage and Creek counties. Its district is mostly rural with a few smaller towns and stretches from Perry to Keystone Lake. It includes the far northern part of Stillwater.
“The number one concern we’re going to have this year, hands down…not just my area but the entire state meeting other members is marijuana,” he said. “Medical marijuana has become a very big thing from foreign investors to illegal crops and activities and to human trafficking and drug cartels and to the burden of rural water systems, water theft and sanitation. electricity, to other drugs… Again, the number one problem we have with this is lack of enforcement.
There will be a number of bills dealing with medical marijuana this session, he said. Inspectors and licensing enforcement is another area of concern that should start to improve. The state now has 60 inspectors and the market is starting to stabilize with a drop from 11,000 to 9,000.
Burns pointed to foreign investors as a major problem in Oklahoma’s marijuana industry, but said bad actors are seeing the state act and are starting to leave.
Last session, the legislature gave Oklahoma’s Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs $5 million to create another department within the agency solely for drug-related law enforcement. marijuana industry, he said.
He mentioned county level compliance and the Secret Shopper Act, which discusses undercover compliance checks as major elements of its marijuana-related legislative agenda.
County roads are another major issue in his district, he said. Noting that House members only receive eight bills per session, he said his bill creating a county road tax credit that allows people to donate to a dedicated road fund blocked in the Senate last year, but hopes to pass it this year.
January 20 was the deadline for submitting bills to the House for the next session. Burns said he has 12 bills and will have to whittle it down to his first eight.
Resolving driver’s license backlogs at the Department of Motor Vehicles and creating a paper trail requirement similar to pawnshops for auction companies where stolen construction and farm equipment could be sold make the subject of other bills.
Dugger represents Senate District 21, which was previously confined to Payne County but now extends to Creek County.
He praised how the Payne County delegation has worked together over the years to help each other achieve what is best for the people of Stillwater and Payne County.
Dugger said he thinks there will likely be voting rights legislation, but COVID-19 will also be an area of focus.
“COVID in one form or another will take four or five things,” he said. “We have masking, we have vaccines, we have recalls, we have schools, we have business closures, we have all of these at different times and they mean different things.”
Dugger said the Legislature can address them all, but with things constantly changing, like the Supreme Court overturning an OSHA mandate for employers with 100 or more employees on Friday night, he expects to see continued changes. .
He has a new assignment to a committee he says is being set up to provide a quick review of the legislation.
Dugger said there would be differences for him after the redistricting because he now has towns like Oilton and Mannford. People will start to see new ideas emerge from these areas.
He continues on committee assignments that allow him to help the county government, which he said he looks forward to doing.
Ranson represents House District 34, which encompasses most of what she called “the heart of Stillwater.”
She said that as a former teacher, education, children and family are all very important to her. As a member of the minority party, she seeks to push back against preventative laws to ensure equality and access rather than restriction, especially when it comes to the right to vote.
“It’s the kind of stuff I try to make sure I’m ready to fight for,” she said. “…I don’t know what’s going to happen with this next session because I know as a minority member that my voice is not as loud as those who are in the majority caucus. “
Because the rest of the United States views Oklahoma as a very restrictive voting model, Ranson said she’s alarmed that Oklahoma is considering changing laws to bolster its already highly secure paper-based system.
“And they are changing their laws to be more like ours, so the fact that we are looking to increase the security of our vote is a bit alarming. We want to make sure that the vote of the people is heard, and so we want to make sure that we allow access to the ballot boxes.
But she cited COVID-19 as her main concern, saying the state hasn’t done a very good job of letting municipalities and school districts handle the pandemic and we’re seeing the results. It is important to ensure that everyone has access to tests, vaccines and boosters and that their jobs are secure when they have to isolate themselves, and that their children are educated in the best possible way.
She said she spent a lot of time working with community leaders during the pandemic and talking about what they needed.
This has led to legislation she is sponsoring that would change open transfers to allow children of all staff to transfer into the district. It would help districts like Stillwater recruit staff, she said.
She also works with the Town of Stillwater on legal notification requirements when local print newspapers no longer publish daily.
“How can we change that and make sure we’re transparent in our government, make sure we’re transparent in our opinions, but also adapt to the times we’re in in terms of publishing our print newspapers, ” she said.
Talley represents District 34, which once covered most of eastern Payne County and southern Stillwater. Its district was also redrawn, gaining more of Stillwater on the east side and losing Perkins but expanding into Logan County where it took over Langston and the area west of Guthrie.
As he enters the session, he is working on school-related items like pay raises for support staff, who he says receive very low pay statewide.
“I’m in a lot of schools, so I try to hear the teachers’ heartbeats,” he said.
With many schools closed Friday due to COVID, he thinks the state may not be paying as much attention to the numbers as it should.
Talley is also working on a bill suggested by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and requested by a constituent who lost a loved one in a car accident, that would toughen the penalty for drivers convicted of DUI, requiring classes when they receive their first charge.
He also works on county-related issues that would reduce red tape for a county government that has surplus equipment and wishes to sell or donate it.
Talley said he was told there would be a lot of laws relating to abortion, guns and personal freedoms during this session.
“Looks like it’s going to be an interesting session,” Allred said.