From the Desk of Sen. Zack Taylor

Sen. Zack Taylor

            There are a lot of moving parts at this point in the legislative process. Committees are focused on executive nominations; the chambers are considering amendments from their counterparts across the rotunda, budget negotiations are ongoing and work on redistricting continues.

            This week, the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting approved Senate Bill 1066, which includes the new district maps. The Senate will vote on this next week. Given that our population grew by nearly 6% in the past decade to just under four million, many legislative districts changed drastically. Senate District 28 will be expanding. Under the proposal, the district will include all of Seminole and Lincoln Counties, southeastern Logan County, and more of eastern Oklahoma County.

            I’m looking forward to getting to know the constituents in these new areas. The new maps are available for viewing at www.oksenate.gov/redistricting.

            The governor has been busy considering the many bills being approved by both chambers. As of Thursday, he had received nearly 400 bills and signed nearly 370 of them, including eleven of mine. SB 181 was signed this week, eliminating the requirement that ad valorem taxes must be paid in two equal installments. When this new law goes into effect Nov. 1, payments can still be made in up to two installments, but individuals can decide if they’d like their first payment to be half or a larger percentage and it must be paid by Jan. 1. This provides a bit more flexibility when people are trying to pay their property taxes.

            Some essential measures are moving through the process. One that is a huge deal for rural school districts is SB 229, which will create the “Redbud School Funding Act,” requiring the State Board of Education to annually distribute grants to public schools and brick and mortar charter schools (not virtual ones) from the State Public Common School Building Equalization Fund. This will provide equity by investing $38 million into Oklahoma’s lowest funded districts. We’re currently one of only four states that don’t provide any kind of equalization for these schools. The grants can be used to acquire or improve school sites; constructing, repairing, remodeling or equipping buildings; or acquiring school furniture, fixtures, or equipment.

            The Legislature created the Building Equalization Fund in the 1950s, and this will put money into that fund for the first time ever. This will be of great value to rural schools that don’t have good ad valorem valuation.

            Here are some examples of how passage of SB 229 will positively impact rural schools in Seminole, Pottawatomie, and Lincoln Counties. These schools would see an increase to their funding of:

Agra: $20,500

Carney: $25,000

Chandler: $63,000

Meeker: $75,000

Prague: $72,000

Seminole: $171,000

Tecumseh: $449,000

            Should this bill not pass, these schools will instead lose funding due to the State School Board’s decision that charter schools should receive local tax revenue. The Senate will be considering the bill soon. For the sake of our low-income, rural schools, I hope the Senate approves it. It will not only provide equity but will end the pending lawsuits hanging over districts due to the State Board’s decision.

            Another great concern to our district is foreign investors purchasing land and facilities around Oklahoma to get into the medical marijuana business. This week, the Senate approved HB 2272, which requires current medical marijuana business licensees and applicants to submit an attestation confirming or denying the existence of any foreign financial interests in their business operation. Such ownership must be disclosed within 60 days to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control or the Medical Marijuana Authority. Failure to submit the attestation or accompanying information to the Bureau within the specified 60-day period will result in immediate license revocation.  This is a first step in slowing the growth of this black market by creating better transparency and accountability.

            To learn more, visit our website at www.oksenate.gov.

            To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Zack Taylor, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 446, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Zack.Taylor@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5547.