Newton, Pederson began session

This past Monday the legislative session began with Alfalfa County being represented by two people.

Representative Dr. Carl Newton and Senator Roland Pederson began their fifth session on Monday, Feb. 1.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives completed bill filing Thursday, Jan. 21 for the first session of the 58th Legislature. A total of 1,942 House Bills, 44 House Joint Resolutions and 2 House Resolutions were filed.

The full text of the bills, along with additional information including authors and co-authors, can be found online at www.okhouse.gov.

Last year, the Clerk of the House reported 1,361 House Bills, 16 House Joint Resolutions and 4 House Concurrent Resolutions were filed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 session was temporarily paused and a vast majority of bills did not complete the legislative process.

For the 2019 session, 1,733 House bills and 21 House Joint Resolutions were filed. For the 2018 session, 1,193 House bills and 32 House Joint Resolutions were filed.

The House is comprised of 82 Republicans and 19 Democrats. The first session of the 58th Legislature will begin Monday, Feb. 1 at noon with the State of the State address from Gov. Kevin Stitt in the House Chamber.

The Senate has completed filing bills for the first session of the 58th Legislature.  The deadline was Thursday, Jan. 21.  A total of 1,035 Senate Bills and 26 Senate Joint Resolutions were filed.  In 2019, the first session of the 57th Legislature, a total of 1,040 Senate Bills and 21 Senate Joint Resolutions were filed.

The Thursday deadline did not apply to appropriations bills, which can be filed throughout the session.  In addition, Senate rules allow substantive bills to be introduced during the session after the filing deadline.  For this to occur, the bill is assigned to a committee by the Majority Floor Leader and the entire committee becomes the published author of the bill upon committee approval.  Such bills must be heard on the floor by March 11, the deadline for floor votes on legislation originating in the Senate.

Measures filed in the Senate but not heard by deadlines for committee or floor action can still be considered in the 2022 session.  Senate rules also allow for bills by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate to be filed throughout the session, including legislation dealing with redistricting. Senate Resolutions and Senate Concurrent Resolutions can be filed throughout the session as well.

Members of the public can read and download current legislation by going to the official Senate website at www.oksenate.gov and following the link for legislation at the top of the homepage.  The Senate website also includes daily agendas, meeting notices, calendars, and other helpful information.

The 2021 legislative session convened on Monday, February 1.  The Senate offers streaming audio and video with closed captioning from the Senate Chamber, as well as from all committee rooms.  Wireless Internet access is available to all Capitol visitors throughout the Senate Gallery, rotunda, committee rooms, offices and press rooms.

You can also follow the Oklahoma State Senate @oksenate on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

In an interview with the Messenger & Republican, both Newton and Pederson listed the budget as being the biggest crisis facing the session.

Newton said, “Budget always comes to mind first in that, like all our constituents, we have to be wise in how the State funds are used as we too have to balance our budget. This year may be more so as the citizens voted in an additional financial burden of 160 million with the passing of Medicaid expansion.”

Pederson said, “ The biggest crisis in my opinion will be funding Medicaid expansion with a shaky economy.  This was mandated when State Question 802 passed last year.  $160 million or more cost. No good controls on numbers. Core services will continue to be maintained. Budget concerns and keeping education funded at a level to keep advancements like teacher pay and reforms in place to produce better outcomes for students. Trying to get students up to grade level following the Pandemic will be a challenge in some districts. Making the state competitive for economic diversity will also be top legislative priority.”

To fix the problem at hand, Newton is serving as chairman of Natural Resources appropriations committee and will serve on the budget committee which decides how appropriations are made.

Pederson said, “I have been communicating with hospital administrators to determine how to achieve the best outcomes for the Medicaid population. Managed care has been a hot topic even before the state question passed.  Exploring different sources of revenue without raising taxes will be a challenge. Redistricting is not a crisis but will be a major challenge. ”

Both legislators filed their set bills of the session.

“I have filed some new bills this session but most are carryovers from last year but I am working on a Joint Resolution that would raise the threshold on legislation that changes the State’s Constitution. I am not opposed to legislation being passed but to get something in the constitution should require a greater approval than just half of our voters.  The constitution should be a document that holds the core basis which we believe in rather than adding minor rules and regulations,” Newton said.

Pederson filed the following bills:

• SB 339 seatbelts required for 17 years and under in the back seat of a passenger vehicle.

• SB 335 cemetery bill would allow cemetery associations to sell a plot if no contact with owner for 85 years.

• SB 142 Tuition bill would allow a school to accept an out of state student free of charge if the local board does not object. The school would not receive state money for the student either.

• SB337 Would allow OMES to utilize monies from the Oklahoma State Capitol Building Repair & Restoration Fund to create the inscription “In God We Trust” in the new visitor center of the State Capitol.

• SB 824 Will provide private ambulance an avenue for reimbursement for services.

• HJR1027 would require a vote of the people to approve a more equitable way to change the constitution by initiative petition.

• SB485 Would require the Insurer to pay a wrecker service directly for cleaning up a wreck if it is determined the Insurer is liable.

“There are several other House Bills and Senate Bills that I am looking to Coauthor once final language has been determined,” Pederson said.

The first three bills listed  were carryover bills from last session that actually passed the Senate but because of Covid never reached the House. They will have to be reintroduced because the second year of 57th session ended and this will begin the first year of the 58th session.

“Getting people vaccinated is a top priority and we are still assisting constituents with unemployment claims. We have also assisted several constituents with driver’s licenses issues.     I have received many emails, phone calls and held direct conversations from constituents outraged about the Executive Orders coming from President Biden. There is legislation being presented regarding social issues I never thought would ever need to be proposed.   I’m thankful I serve in the OKLAHOMA State Legislature. These are difficult times in our country and hopefully here in Oklahoma we can lead the way and be an example for civil democracy. Please pray for our nation,” Pederson said.

Newton said, “I have about 3-4 carryover bills from last year.  I am carrying a constituent request bill that allows cemeteries to reclaim abandoned plots.  I have worked with the Senate and refined this bill to make sure we are protecting the owner’s rights but yet also not forcing our cemeteries to enlarge when they have plots that have been abandoned for almost 100 years.  I am also carrying some other constituent requests that will aid rural Oklahoma.”

“I am blessed to serve the great people of Northwest Oklahoma and am always looking for ways to help our area at the Capitol.  I am unsure how the visitation is going to be this year with the Covid concerns but will always welcome your contact by email @ Carl.Newton@okhouse.gov or call my office @ 405-557-7339.”

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