February 25, 2010

02/26/10 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome
The Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, which I am a member, passed a very important Bill this week. HB 2686, Representative Richard Morrissette (D-OKC), the Eastern Red Cedar initiative. This bill will get the ball rolling on the Red Cedar problem in Oklahoma, while turning this nuisance into a viable cash crop. The possible uses of the Eastern Red Cedar are: Landscaping mulch - presently we ship tons of Cypress mulch from Florida; Wood Energy Pellets ? will produce more heat energy than the presently used hardwoods; Oils from the Red Cedar ? used to produce drugs, pesticides and fuels; and Furniture ? made from the Red Cedar. The bill will identify Property Owners, which have Red Cedar available for harvest, Cutters, who will harvest the Cedar, and Business?, that will purchase the Cedar. It will also help with the inventory of the Red Cedar we have in Oklahoma. This is a win-win situation for all involved. The Asian market has a big interest in the Red Cedar market. The remarkable story behind this bill is Representative Morrissette (D-OKC), from South Oklahoma City. His interest in this bill was sparked (no pun intended) by a wildfire fueled by Red Cedar which resulted in the loss of 80 homes in his District just last year. Another bill of interest that advanced out of Committee: HB 3250, Representative Sue Tibbs (R-Tulsa) and Representative Danny Morgan (D-Prague), that will crack down on driving while texting. This bill will penalize any person operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway using a cellular telephone or electronic communication device to write, send or read a text-based communication while the motor vehicle is in motion with a fine of up to $1,000.00. The bill will prohibit any driver operating with a learning permit or an intermediate drivers license (Class D) from using a cell phone to talk or text while the car is in motion. In addition, a driver with a learner permit will only be allowed to drive between the hours of 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Violation of either provision would result in the suspension of the driver license, payment of court cost and ticket fee. Folks, I would appreciate your feed back on this bill. Let me know your feelings. You can email at brian.renegar@okhouse.gov, or call me at (405)557-7381 or (918)426-0113. This week the Pastor of the Week was Paul Blair, the minister of the Edmond Fairview Baptist Church. Paul was a former football player at Oklahoma State University and a professional football player. His message was awesome and was a real History lesson for the Legislature. In the early days of infancy, our nation had 13 fragmented colonies. They were all pulling in different directions. The one unifying item was the Word of God. The Leaders of the Colonies got together and spent three hours studying the 35th Psalms. The 13 Colonies were brought together by the preaching of being ?born again?. This being the acceptance of God as their Savior, no matter if they were Quakers, Methodist or whatever. This was the birth of America as a Christian Nation. On a more personal note, I feel as a Christian we need to respect our History. When we have doubts about our Nation, we need to return to our History and place our Faith in our God! This week?s visitors were: Larry Morgan with Keddo; Jan Jackson with a group of 4th Graders from Will Rogers Elementary; and Don Mordecai of McAlester. If you come to the Capitol please come by to visit, my office is Room 504. May God Bless you all!
 

?PERCEPTION ?VS- REALITY?

02/20/10 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome
February 18, 2010 Here at the Capitol, it is about perception and not reality.....and politics. Representative Don Armes? (R-Faxon) House Bill 3202 removes Equine Dentistry from the Veterinary Practice Act where it has been for the last 19 years. His bill also would relax our federal and state prescription drug laws. This bill will allow unlicensed individuals to legally possess dangerous sedatives, which can and are diverted to humans as date rape drugs. This is all that the bill does, and I am against it. The reason I am against this bill is because of these dangerous sedatives, which I am held accountable for, yet unlicensed individuals would not be held to any accountability standards under provisions of the Armes? bill. Now enters the politics. Rep. Armes is the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee and has ?a lot of stroke? with farm entities such as the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. In this week?s edition of the Farm Bureau newsletter ?Perspective,? it was reported that the Armes? bill would protect a livestock owner?s right ?to perform traditional animal husbandry practices.? I have read that bill, and I cannot find those words in the legislation. However, this is the ?spin? that Rep. Armes wanted, so Farm Bureau has obliged. Additionally, the article listed me as an opponent of Farm Bureau policy by casting a ?no? vote in committee on this bill. The irony of all this is not only have I been a proud member of Oklahoma Farm Bureau for more than two decades, but I am also a Pittsburg County Farm Bureau Board Member. I did not realize that here at Farm Bureau we have reduced ourselves to ?eating our own.? I have not ever and will never oppose the right of farmers and ranchers to treat their own animals or to help their neighbors. It is evident that ?I practice what I preach? by the amount of Free Advice that I give over the phone, at any time night or day, to anyone who needs counsel on how to treat their or their neighbor?s animals. Those of you who know me realize this, so this information is for those of you who do not know me. The most important news of the week regards the revised budget for 2010, important news for all Oklahomans. We received a copy of the Supplemental Appropriation Bill that will allow the State to conduct business for the remainder of fiscal year 2010(up to July 1st). The legislative leadership has come up with a following supplemental package that will utilize $225 million of the Rainy Day Fund for 2010, (cuts made in 2010 would remain in place for the rest of 2010). Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Allocations are: $80 million to Education $50 million to 1017 Revolving Fund $33 million to Oklahoma Health Care Authority $7 million to the Department of Corrections $1.3 million to Department of Rehabilitations $3 million to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol The Fiscal Year 2011 Budget will utilize $225 million of Rainy Day funds and federal stabilization stimulus dollars of $641 million. It is projected that even using these monies, agencies may still see cuts. I want to congratulate Representative Terry Harrison and his wife Amy on the birth of their son Tristan Michael on Tuesday. I want him to know that he was missed both in our Democratic caucus and on the House floor, and we look forward to having him back with us next week. This week I participated in the shadowing program of Oklahoma Close-up. My ?shadows? were two young men from Oklahoma City?s Metro Tech, Kenneth Patel and Miguel Gonzalez, both seniors. Many of these students say they learn more in one day of shadowing about state government than all the years in social studies classes. Visitors this week were: Crowder FFA Adviser Darrell Hightower, student teacher Daniel Bacorn, and Crowder FFA Students Stephen Allen, Chad Sager, Bailey Shropshire, Rachel Stringfellow, Alyssa Stringfellow, Brandon Roach and parent Shelly Shropshire; Pittsburg FCCLA students Josh and Dakota, Kirstin Shields, and Ashton Lay; Haileyville FFA Adviser Nathan Cato and FFA students; Superintendent of McAlester Schools Tom Condict; Eastern OK State College TRIO advisor June Haynes and TRIO students; Danny Baldwin, Wilburton, with KEDDO; Domenica Lovera of Krebs. As always, thanks to all of you for visiting. When you come to the Capitol, please come by the office for a visit. I am on the fifth floor in room 504. If I can be of assistance to you, please call my office at 504-557-7381. May God continue to bless each of you.
 

May 22, 2009

05/23/09 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome
As we finish the last week of session, a lot of bills are being rushed across our desks. HB 1032 would allow Central Purchasing to break a contract with any vendor if it can get a better deal somewhere else. I can not believe that we are allowing this to happen when in the private sector, this would be a slam dunk loss in the courts. We have initiated in either the House or Senate a total of 15 Resolutions that will ultimately be on the November 2010 ballot as State Questions, with a possibility of two more. Guess what? We still have next year?s session to add even more. We may have to take a day of vacation from our jobs and take a boxed lunch, just to complete our voter privilege next year. Several of the State Questions are political statements, and the rest are bills that the Governor vetoed. Therefore, the authors replaced them as State Questions ? this is called an ?end run? around our Governor. We finally have a good water bill that will strengthen our Water Statutes. It contains the New Mexico Water Law language. Our Governor insisted that the bill?s author remove the repeal of our Water Moratorium and retain legislative approval for any water sales. This is a very significant addition to our Water Statutes. This is House Bill 1483, which passed the House 91-5 on Wednesday night and passed the Senate 45-0 on Thursday morning. SB 1137 creates the Oklahoma American Civil War Commission. Yeah right, of all the pressing needs of the State, we really need this? I voted against this measure. On Monday morning, we were given the final budget. The budget cuts range from 0 to 8.7% to each State Agency. The REAP (Rural Economic Action Plan) was zeroed out, meaning this program received NO funding. This is the fund that helps small towns with a population of 7500 or smaller with grants for waste water and clean drinking water projects. The House Democrat Caucus met and decided we would initiate an amendment to take all of the money out of the House and Senate Surplus Funds. These funds are used to upgrade offices and equipment. When the Senate and House leadership heard what we were going to do, they decided to fund REAP. Guess what? They didn?t take the money from the House and Senate Slush Fund. This is another triumph for Rural Oklahoma.
 

May 14, 2009

05/17/09 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome
At this writing, we are well into the last two weeks of the session with approximately 350 bills remaining for consideration, which is a monumental task. Several of the bills we will be looking at were intentionally held up to the end of session in hopes that they would not be looked at very closely. This means that we legislators must read each bill very carefully. With this in mind, if you see me on the weekend the next two weeks and my eyes are blood shot, you will know why! You did not send me to the Capitol just to read every other bill. As I have related before, fear is a powerful motivator, and it is used with skill in the Legislature. I will end my rant and report on specific bills. Senate Bill 275, the only bill remaining with me as the principal author, will require ?zone only? voting for the Kiamichi Technology District. Yesterday, this bill passed the Senate 47-1. Today, I presented it to the House, and it passed 100-0. This bill saves the Kiamichi Tech District $60,000 per year in election costs. It now goes to the Governor for his signature. House Bill 2263, a new state law, will increase the penalty for drivers with suspended licenses. This bill creates the ?Gaje Jeffrey Florence Act.? This week, it passed unanimously in both the House and Senate before being signed by Governor Henry. The legislation is named in honor of a six year old boy killed in Oklahoma City in 2007. A non-US Citizen, whose license had been suspended at the time, backed into Gaje?s driveway, where he was playing, and killed him. House Bill 1769 passed the House last week and was signed by Governor Henry on Monday. This bill creates the Carsyn K. Hackler Memorial Highway, Highway 63 between Kiowa and Pittsburg. It also created the Representative Terry Hyman Highway in Love County in remembrance of State Representative Terry Hyman, who was killed last year in a farm accident. House Bill 1595 passed to prohibit abortions due to fetal sexing. Apparently there are people who choose to abort a baby because it?s not the sex they are wanting. I voted to prohibit these abortions. The latest update on House Bill 1483, which is the water bill, is that it is still up in the air. It may require a Special Session. I do not look forward to a Special Session, but I do not want legislation passed that would diminish the strength of our laws that restrict out of state water sales. May God Bless you.
 

May 7, 2009

05/08/09 | by Brian | Categories: Welcome
With the news seeming to bring more and more concern about the H1N1 flu virus, more commonly known as swine flu, I've been spending some time thinking about the limited areas where we as legislators can really have any influence or control. Emergency situations are always going to occur, and though some may be foreseeable as possibilities, when or how they arrive remains unpredictable. I think of things such as the wildfires our state has experienced or a terrorist attack and other acts of violence. We can imagine the worst might happen, but we can't predict it. And as legislators, we have little ? if any ? influence over these kinds of emergency situations. The so-called "swine flu" is another example of something that the legislature can do little about. We may be called on to react with emergency funding or other urgent action should this virus reach pandemic level and spread throughout our state. But even then, we're not the ones who will be saving lives ? we leave that to doctors and other medical personnel. However, I believe that in our role as legislators, one thing we can do is to set laws in place designed to mitigate the effects of emergencies such as these. One issue that keeps coming to mind this week is health care. Can we, as legislators, develop a vaccine for the H1N1 virus? No, but we can support medical researchers who could. Can we make sure everyone washes their hands to slow the spread of the virus? No, but we can regulate a state health agency whose employees go into communities to fight the spread of this flu. Can we write a prescription for Tamiflu? No, but we can create health insurance programs so that everyone who needs medicine can afford it. Though we may not be called on to deal with an emergency, there is so much that we, as legislators, can do to make sure we are all better prepared when an emergency strikes. A few days ago, Gov. Henry vetoed a bill that would have set strict limits on when certain types of legislation to regulate the insurance industry can be heard. The bill, HB 1975, was designed to make it harder for the legislature to pass requirements for insurance companies to offer a full range of benefits ? or, simply put, ensure that they keep the "insurance" in "health insurance." There are many excellent arguments against this bill ? not the least of which is that it would prevent insurance companies from cutting life-saving coverage to increase their profit margins. But another reason is that when I look at the news and think of how little we can do at the Capitol sometimes, I wonder why in the world we would want to tie our hands when it comes to ensuring quality health care coverage for Oklahoma families. I'm proud of Gov. Henry for vetoing this bill. And I hope the work we've done at the Capitol helps you ride out this ? and every ? emergency. On another note, HB 1483 by Rep. Dale Dewitt (R-Braman), a shell bill that has a Water Title, came out yesterday. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board inserted my New Mexico Water language, which is a good thing, but they struck language that takes final approval of all water sales from the State Legislature. This has always been a huge safety net for the people of Oklahoma. The Board also inserted language in the bill that will repeal the Out of State Water Moratorium. These two points will be the reason I will be voting against this measure and actively work to change or kill this bill. I have multiple confirmed and reliable sources that the Chiefs of Staff for both the Speaker of the House and the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate have been negotiating with Tarrant County Water District. These are the people that want our water. Can you see what is going on here? Today, May 7th, is National Prayer Day, I ask each of you to pray for not only our water but also for our Legislature to do the right thing! Please continue to pray for me and my staff. God Bless each of you.
 

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Weekly update from Oklahoma City on the status of Bills in the House.

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