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Feb 29, 2024
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House Veterans Caucus Elects New Leadership

The Oklahoma House of Representatives Veterans Caucus elected Army veteran Rep. Ty Burns, R-Pawnee, as the new House chair for the next legislative session. Members also elected Rep. Collin Duel, R-Guthrie, as the House vice chair. "It's a privilege to support the men and women in our state Legislature who have bravely served in our nation's defense and to represent the needs of our fellow veterans in Oklahoma," Burns said. "I want to thank Representative Steagall for his leadership for the past five years. As the newly elected Chair of the Oklahoma House Veterans Caucus, I am committed to promoting policies recognizing our veterans' and their families' sacrifices. Together, we will work tirelessly to ensure their voices are heard and their needs are met." "I am honored that my colleagues have placed their trust and confidence in me by electing me as the Vice Chair of the Oklahoma House Veterans Caucus," said Duel, who is an Army Ranger. "It is not only our duty but also a privilege to support our veterans, and I hold this responsibility in the highest regard. Through this caucus, we can better serve the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our state and nation." Current Chair Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, who served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and the Oklahoma Air National Guard, has been chair of the caucus since 2019 and offered his congratulations to Reps. Burns and Duel. "It has been an honor to serve my fellow legislative veterans in this capacity for the last five years," Steagall said. "Together, we've led the charge to effect several statutory changes that benefit our state's veterans and their families. The work of this caucus is far from over, and I'm certain that with the leadership of Representatives Burns and Duel, this caucus will continue to fight for our veterans to ensure that those who wore the uniform and fought for our freedoms and way of life receive the benefits and care they have earned and deserve." The Veterans Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral caucus consisting of over 20 veterans in the state legislature.



Feb 29, 2024
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House Passes Overhaul of Obama-Era Transmission Policy

The Oklahoma House of Representatives today passed legislation to implement free market principles and assert states' rights in high-voltage transmission construction and ownership. Rep. Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton, authored House Bill 4097, which would give Oklahoma the right to decide how critical transmission infrastructure located within the state would be owned and maintained. "I sat through hundreds of hours of meetings to help Oklahomans who are living on a fixed income or struggling to make ends meet," Caldwell said. "We all know how unpredictable utility bills are, and our constituents are paying more and more every month. Legislators should jump at every opportunity to lower customer costs, especially one that creates the optimal balance of free market principles and states' rights." HB4097 expands the pool of potential qualified transmission developers who could enter the competitive bidding process, resulting in lower building costs that are ultimately passed onto consumers. "Under this new policy, the state would oversee the competitive process and associated rate recovery, clawing back oversight from the federal government," Caldwell said. "Stakeholders overwhelmingly said they have more success advocating for ratepayers at the OCC than in Washington, D.C. Returning the authority to the elected Oklahoma Corporation Commission ensures Oklahomans have a voice." HB4097 eliminates a patchwork grid of accountability by closing regulatory loopholes created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that allow unregulated entities to own transmission in our state with no accountability or oversight. The state would maintain greater accountability over critical transmission infrastructure costs and safeguard reliability by requiring the state's local electric companies to continue to answer to the elected Oklahoma Corporation Commission. "The Obama Administration forced this policy change on Oklahomans, and utility prices have been rising ever since," Caldwell said. "By cutting federal government red tape, we can increase competition on the front end, which will naturally reduce the rising rates we are experiencing." Caldwell said this policy is a first-of-its-kind in the nation for competitive transmission, but it follows a similar generation model that already exists. The measure, which is not retroactive, would take effect Nov. 1, 2024. HB4097 passed the House 65 – 29 and is now available for consideration in the Senate, where it is carried by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle.



Feb 27, 2024
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Speaker McCall Celebrates Signing of House Grocery Tax Bill

OKLAHOMA CITY – Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, today issued a statement following Gov. Stitt's signing of House Bill 1955, by McCall, which eliminates the state's portion of the grocery tax. "Today is a day that has been a year in the making and it could not have come soon enough for the citizens of Oklahoma," McCall said. "House Bill 1955 eliminates the state portion of the grocery tax, which sits at 4.5%, and will save Oklahomans hundreds of dollars each year on their grocery bills. Inflation is higher than at almost any other point in our nation's history, and Oklahomans are feeling that the most through the price of their groceries. I am proud of the House for leading this effort to cut the grocery tax, and thankful that Oklahomans are close to receiving the relief they so desperately need." The bill, which will go into effect 90 days after sine die adjournment of the Legislature, cuts the state's portion of the grocery tax and includes a two-year moratorium on local grocery and sales taxes that prohibits cities from increasing those through June 2025. "Eliminating the state's portion of the grocery tax is a good first step towards helping ease the burden of inflation on Oklahomans, but it is not the only step needed to truly help our citizens," McCall said. "The Senate is currently in possession of a number of House bills that would cut income taxes and change the tax structure of our state to be more favorable to our taxpayers. These bills are equally as important, if not more so, than cutting the grocery tax, and they deserve to be heard and put up for a vote in the Senate. In addition to bills already sent to the Senate, I have filed a number of tax relief measures this year that the House will be sending over as well. The Senate passed the grocery tax cut by a vote of 42-2. To me, that signals that the members of that body are supportive of tax relief for Oklahomans. If that is the case, they should put these other important tax relief bills up for a vote and send them to the governor's desk immediately." -END- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Daniel Seitz, House Leadership Communications Liaison Phone: (405) 962-7649 Email: daniel.seitz@okhouse.gov 



Feb 23, 2024
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Reps. Smith and Rick West Hold Meetings with Rural Fire Coordinators

OKLAHOMA CITY – Reps. David Smith, R-Arpelar, and Rick West, R-Heavener, held a meeting Feb. 21 with 11 rural fire coordinators from across the state who voiced concerns about new mandatory training requirements from the state fire marshal in accordance with state statutes. The meeting was standing room only in Smith's Capitol office. "Volunteer rural firefighters are rural Oklahoma's first line of defense," Smith said. "They're upset because of some of the rumors they are hearing about what might be required of them going forward. It was important to us that we heard their concerns. Now, we are focused on helping facilitate discussions between the coordinators, fire chiefs and the state fire marshal so everyone can be on the same page about the new training requirements." Smith said the next meeting will include State Fire Marshal Keith Bryant as well as fire chiefs and rural fire coordinators from across the state. The meeting will be public for anyone that wishes to attend, space allowing. It is set for 10 a.m. March 13 in Room 450 in the state Capitol, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd. Smith and West also are discussing holding a potential interim study to examine incentives to help recruit and retain rural firefighters. "These are volunteer positions, but they are vital for the safety of all who live and work in rural Oklahoma," West said. "I'm glad we're going to be able to get everyone around the table to discuss ways to improve conditions for these volunteer firefighters and those they serve."



Feb 23, 2024
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Gun Safety Bill Passes Committee

Rep. Nick Archer, R-Elk City, passed a bill out of the Appropriations & Budget Committee on Thursday that would encourage responsible gun ownership. Starting from the tax year 2025, House Bill 3427 proposes to provide a tax credit equal to 50% of the purchase price of a gun safe or other qualified lockable storage device, up to a maximum of $1,000. "The idea is to incentivize individuals to store firearms safely," Archer said. "House Bill 3427 is a proactive measure designed to promote responsible gun ownership while preventing firearm accidents, theft and unauthorized access." Archer said the National Rifle Association and the Oklahoma Rifle Association, as well as Everytown for Gun Safety, agree on the measure, a topic that typically divides opinions. "This unified commitment to responsible gun ownership bridges the gap between staunch defenders of Second Amendment rights and advocates for gun violence prevention," Archer said. "I was glad this measure passed easily and look forward to seeing it widely supported on the House floor." HB3427 passed the committee with bipartisan support, with one legislator, a Republican, voting against the measure. It is now eligible to be heard on the House floor.



Feb 22, 2024
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Hardin Releases Statement on House Bill 4118

Rep. David Hardin, R-Stilwell, released the following statement today in response to the spread of false information about his legislation protecting law-abiding farmers and landowners from sue-and-settle tactics.   "Oklahoma farmers are worried about the potential threat of wealthy, out-of-state activists suing them to promote a liberal environmental agenda. These sue-and-settle tactics are commonly used nationwide to impose regulations, and the lawyers behind them are known for targeting those who lack the means to defend themselves, such as small-family farmers. "Let me be clear: House Bill 4118 will only shield Oklahoma's protein farmers who comply with the state's nutrient management plan. Those not in compliance will face recourse, which could include litigation. "In Oklahoma, there are strict laws and regulations in place for poultry growers. They must follow a state-approved nutrient management plan that provides guidelines for responsibly handling poultry waste. These plans ensure poultry growers protect soil and water resources as they produce affordable food and responsibly use the byproducts to benefit other agriculture commodities around the state. Recently, I spoke with Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma's Secretary of Agriculture, where I requested an increase in the budget for more poultry inspectors to implement better testing and preventative measures. "Oklahoma's poultry producers and the industries that support them have demonstrated their dedication to maintaining clean water for decades. Their diligence in following nutrient management plans has contributed to a more than 50% decline in phosphorus levels in the Illinois River watershed since 2002. Nearly 1.8 million tons of poultry litter has been transported out of the Illinois River watershed since 2005, and even the Oklahoma Tourism Department continues to rave about the pristine water in the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller. "It is crucial to protect Oklahoma's family farmers and ranchers now more than ever, as we have lost over 8,000 farms since 2017. These farmers and ranchers work hard every day to provide a healthy and affordable food supply for people worldwide. I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure that they can continue to do so for generations to come, even if it means taking a stand against radical groups who seek to mislead Oklahomans." HB4118 passed the House 68-28 on Monday and now moves to the Senate.  



Feb 22, 2024
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Sims Passes Two Bills Before House Committees

Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks, passed two bills out of House committees on Tuesday.   The House Public Safety Committee approved House Bill 3820, which creates a “whole-of-government” approach to disaster planning, mitigation, preparedness, and response across state agencies by creating the Oklahoma Interagency Resilience Coordination Council.  This council led by the Office of Emergency Management will provide strategic direction to resilience efforts across the state and provide an annual report to the legislature on risk mitigation needs, progress, and priorities across Oklahoma to minimize future impact of natural disasters. The deadline for the first report is October 2025. "When I led an interim study on the Arkansas River Flood Event back in 2019, we learned Oklahoma didn’t just have a flooding problem, we have a natural disaster problem," Sims said. "Improved coordination between state agencies would help our state better prepare for, respond to and even mitigate the risk of future disasters."  HB3820 passed committee unanimously and now moves to the House floor for consideration.  House Bill 1522, heard in the House Insurance Committee, creates the Consumer Health Choice Empowerment Act. The measure would expand choice to healthcare consumers by requiring insurance carriers to provide the “average allowed amount” for comparable health services. Empowered with this information, the consumer or patient would then be able to shop for often more local out-of-network providers willing to charge less than the carrier’s in-network average allowed amount for the same service.  Sims, who has a background in insurance, told the committee that seven other states have already implemented this program with several others introducing similar legislation to do so this year. One specific example mentioned was the state of New Hampshire who implemented the system 3 years ago and has already saved more than $11 million. "Health insurance companies have become the de facto director of care for patients by telling them where they can or can't go for services and what doctors they can or cannot see," said Sims. "House Bill 1522 in a small way puts the power back in both the patients and their physicians’ hands when it comes to personal medical decisions."  HB1522 passed the House Insurance Committee 4-2 and is now eligible to be heard on the House floor. 



Feb 22, 2024
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Speaker McCall Praises Final Passage of House Grocery Tax Bill

OKLAHOMA CITY – Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, today issued a statement following the final passage of House Bill 1955, by McCall, which eliminates the state's portion of the grocery tax, through the Oklahoma Senate by a vote of 42-2. The bill was passed by the House 11 months ago, and has been awaiting a vote in the Senate along with an income tax cut.   "This is a truly historic day. With the passage of House Bill 1955, the Legislature has managed to give Oklahomans the largest single year tax cut in state history, returning $411 million to our citizens at a time when they need it the most," McCall said. "I would like to give a tremendous amount of credit to my colleagues in the House who have fought through both regular and special sessions over the past three years to cut taxes and provide relief to the citizens of Oklahoma. Their persistence and willingness to come in on weekends, holidays and during the interim to do the work of the people has led to a policy that will help all Oklahomans." McCall said that the legislation's passage also would not have been possible without the support of Gov. Kevin Stitt and the House's colleagues in the Oklahoma Senate. "I would like to thank Gov. Stitt for his leadership throughout this process and his unwavering support in cutting taxes. He has been an ally and vocal proponent of getting tax relief legislation to his desk, and I am glad the Senate is finally delivering to him a bill that will help all Oklahomans," McCall said.  "I would also like to thank President Pro Temp Greg Treat and our colleagues in the Senate for finally voting this legislation through to the governor's desk. The delay in the vote cost Oklahomans an estimated additional $374 million in taxes, and the lack of an emergency to immediately put the cuts in place will cost our citizens another $200M, but Senate leadership did their best to at least secure passage. The House has sent several tax cuts to the Senate over the last three years only to have them stall and not be heard. Thankfully this legislation has finally passed after 332 days of waiting. Oklahomans are currently facing some of the worst inflation of the last three decades, and the Senate's vote today means that help is finally on the way." McCall added that while passage of the grocery tax cut is a good first step, it is not the final step needed to truly help Oklahomans. "There is continued work to be done to give Oklahomans back more of their hard-earned money. While the grocery tax is a good first step, it is not the only action needed to accomplish that goal. The House always knew this legislation would pass if put up for a vote, and we feel the same way about the .25% income tax cut. The House would still like to see a vote taken on the income tax cut legislation that was passed to the Senate in special session, and will continue to explore every opportunity to lower the tax burden for all Oklahomans." -END- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Daniel Seitz, House Leadership Communications Liaison  Phone: (405) 962-7649 Email: daniel.seitz@okhouse.gov 



Feb 21, 2024
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Harris Sworn in to Serve Oklahoma House District 39

Rep. Erick Harris, R-Edmond, was sworn into the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday, February 21, to represent House District 39. Vice Chief Justice Dustin P. Rowe administered the oath of office. Harris won a February 13 special general election to fill a vacancy in the west Edmond district. "It is an honor for me to represent the people of House District 39," Harris said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass legislation that will benefit our schools, enhance public safety, support small businesses, and provide other services to my district and the state." Harris graduated from Tuskegee University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and was student body president. Afterward, he earned a law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Oklahoma Journal of Law and Technology. He also earned a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Harris serves as Vice President for Legal Services for a family-owned trucking company headquartered in Oklahoma City. Before entering private practice, he worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office where he prosecuted elder and caretaker abuse and Medicaid fraud. Harris is licensed to practice law in all Oklahoma state and federal district courts and the 10 th Circuit Court of Appeals. He also was an adjunct professor of political science for the University of Central Oklahoma for nearly a decade. He serves on Tuskegee University's board of trustees and previously served on the board of directors for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections as an appointee of Speaker Charles McCall. Additionally, he is a proud member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He previously served on the board of directors for Junior Achievement OKC and the board of trustees for the Oklahoman Humanities Council. Harris is a lifelong Oklahoma resident and resides in Edmond with his wife, Melissa, and their daughter, Olivia.