By State Rep. Mike Sanders

'Feb. 27 was the date by which all bills had to be passed in committee in order to stay active this session. Consequently, that meant House committees heard hundreds of bills this past week. Here is a look at a few that passed.

House Bills 3826 and 3827 by Speaker Charles McCall would make more transparent and modernize the initiative and referendum petition processes used to place state questions on the ballot in Oklahoma.

HB 3827 addresses a lack of transparency in campaign finance for state questions. The Ethics Commission currently says a state question is only a state question when the governor sets an election date. This allows campaigns for or against state questions to avoid disclosing donations and expenditures until that time. State question campaigns will often have been accepting donations and spending money for months or even years before an election date is set by the governor. This measure specifies that a state question becomes a state question when the Secretary of State assigns a state question number, which typically occurs shortly after the petition is filed.

To modernize the petition signature counting process, HB 3826 authorizes the Secretary of State to use electronic signature counting equipment and software so petition signatures can be cross referenced with the voter registration database maintained by the Election Board. Currently, signatures on these petitions are still being hand-counting and are not cross-referenced with voter rolls. This bill would require petition forms to include each signatory’s printed first name, last name, zip code, house number, and month and day of birth. Any entry not matching three of these five criteria during cross referencing with the voter database would not be counted.

House Bill 3913 restores the last of the money the state borrowed from the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges Fund in the 2017 special session. To preserve state services during recession, we borrowed $50 million from this fund. We restored $30 million last year. This would restore the remaining $20 million. We must keep our county roads and bridges projects on track.

House Bill 3188 would create a revolving fund to be used to support the Cooperative Extension Service offices in each county in the state. Because these funds have to flow through a land grant college, in our case Oklahoma State University, they are subject to volatility when higher education funding is cut. This bill would protect the money that is designated for the Cooperative Extension Services, which are essential to many programs in our rural areas.

I was scheduled to hear four bills in my House Utilities Committee this week. House Bill 3081 would crack down on telemarketers who try to replicate cell phone numbers or misrepresent the origin of a call on a caller ID. The ultimate solution lies at the federal level, but this would help cut down on spam phone calls in our state and give prosecutors better tools in going after these scammers.

Once bills pass in committee, they are eligible to be heard on the House floor. If they pass the House, they then go to the Senate to go through the committee process and floor votes in the opposite chamber. The same thing happens for Senate bills heard in the House. Bills that pass both legislative chambers are sent to the governor to be signed into law or vetoed.

A bill that passed in the House this week would allow doctors who practice in rural communities to claim a $25,000 tax credit for the tax year beginning in 2021. This will help improve health care options for our rural residents.

Now that committee work is concluded, we will have several very busy days and nights of floor work to pass bills to the Senate by the deadline of March 12.

As always, if you have questions or concerns, I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.

Mike Sanders represents District 59 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The district includes part of Woodward County

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