Senate Review: Historic legislation
The governor signed a historic piece of legislation this past week that I was very pleased to see get across the finish line. Senate Bill 631 is now law, which makes Oklahoma a Second Amendment Sanctuary State.
Our Second Amendment rights are under attack by the Biden administration, and now is the time for states to take a stand – the Constitution clearly states that our right to bear arms shall not be infringed. Under the measure, any federal, state, county or municipal law, order, rule, policy or regulation with the intent to buy-back, confiscate or remove firearms, ammunition or accessories is illegal. In layman’s terms, any gun or ammunition that is currently legal will always be legal in our state. I was honored to serve as a co-author of this measure.
The governor also approved Senate Bill 335, which I authored to provide a method for unused burial plots to be deemed “abandoned” and revert ownership back to the cemetery. Unused burial plots have filled up our rural cemeteries, making it difficult for current residents to purchase plots. Under the measure, if no contact has been made with the owner in 75 years, the cemetery may conduct a reasonable search for the owner or beneficiary. If no one steps forward, the plot may revert back to the cemetery to be resold. If a person with legitimate claim resurfaces after the plot has been resold, they may claim a similar space in the cemetery.
Finally, he also signed Senate Bill 947, which will allow voters to be better informed on the costs and funding mechanisms of state questions. This measure requires that state question ballot titles include information on whether or not the question will have a fiscal impact, including the amount of that impact and where the funding for the cost increase may come from.
Just as many of you sit down and craft your household budget each month, the Legislature does this each year for the state agencies under our purview. When a state question is passed with a fiscal impact, it is up to us to determine how to pay for the change to law. Unfortunately, when voting on state questions, many do not realize there is a cost associated with a change, or that budget cuts for agencies, tax increases or other measures may be necessary to pay for the question.
We want people to feel empowered at the ballot box, and ensuring voters know exactly what they are voting on is crucial. Before Oklahomans vote something into law, they need to have the full picture, including the fiscal impact of new policy and how it may be funded.
Speaking of voting, the Senate also took steps last week to expand early voting, creating more access to the ballot box. This measure simply adds one additional day to the early voting time frame. Typically, early voting is conducted Thursday-Saturday preceding an election, but if the governor signs this measure into law, early voting will be Wednesday-Saturday. Early voting can only be done at the County Election Board, which in rural Oklahoma, can be quite a hike for some folks. We want to ensure that everyone has access to the ballot box, and giving an extra day of early voting will be beneficial to those who may not be able to make it in-person to vote on Election Day.
It’s an honor to be your voice at our state Capitol. Please feel free to reach out if there is anything we can help you with. You can contact me at 405-521-5630 or via email at Roland.Pederson@oksenate.gov.