BRIAN RENEGAR: Capitol Greetings

The handwriting is on the wall as to the direction the State of Oklahoma is going to fund education. You need go no further than to see what bills passed out of Committee this last week. HB 3291 by Osborn (R-Tuttle) would reduce the State’s top tax rate from its current level of 5.25 percent to 4.75 percent next year. The rate would then be reduced by an additional .25 percent each of the following three tax years, stopping at 4.0 percent in 2018. The Governor’s tornado safe room bill will allow school districts to increase property taxes to pay for these storm shelters. This bill is being touted at the Capitol as the largest single tax increase in Oklahoma history. Another measure, HJR 1081, a constitutional amendment by Denny (R-Cushing), was approved in the Appropriations Committee; it will ask voters whether or not to allow individual districts to raise property taxes in order to pay teachers more. You may wonder why leadership is moving in this direction. Number one, “they” say cutting taxes is a vote getter and “they” think because “they” are not actually raising property taxes, but rather allowing school districts to do so, “they” are keeping their hands clean -- so to speak.As I have mentioned many times in my articles from the Capitol, it is about perception, not reality. This is really a tax on seniors because the State does not tax seniors’ retirement benefits, but everyone pays property taxes until they die.HB 2010 by Hulbert (R-Ft. Gibson) passed off the House floor 64-20 and now heads to the Oklahoma Senate. This bill allows certified physical therapists to see patients without having to have a physician’s referral. All of the legislators received between 1200 and 1500 e-mails on this bill with a large majority in favor.HB 2672 by Derby (R-Owasso) passed out of the Judiciary Committee. This bill would allow concealed carry at the Capitol. All a person would have to do is wave his concealed weapon permit and bypass security and metal detectors. Even though this bill has passed out of committee and HB 2010 passed the House floor, they both are a long way from getting to the Governor’s desk.My HB 2766, which is a bill to allow the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to license and regulate animal crematories, passed out of the Economic Development committee 9-1. This is a request bill by a Broken Arrow veterinarian, Dr. Daniel Murkey. At the present time there are no regulations. Dr. Murkey found a crematory in the Tulsa area that was putting deceased animals in pans and pouring kerosene on them and burning the bodies. Unbelievable! What is interesting is the animal crematories that are doing it right really want to be licensed and inspected so that we can rid the State of the bad actors.HB 2763, which is my grandparents’ tax relief bill that passed out of the Revenue and Taxation Committee last week, had to go through the full Appropriations committee this week. I am happy to report that it passed 14-0. Both of these bills go to the House floor next.There is a lot of uncertainty at the Capitol on our budget. With the State Equalization Board certifying even less than expected for us to spend and some agencies requesting supplemental appropriations just to make it to July 1st, it makes us wonder how a tax cut of, not one quarter but one half, a percent is going to work for us. This week was Blue and Gold Week at the Capitol, and I don’t mean blue and gold sausage! We had FFA chapters from all over the State at the Capitol. I was able to eat lunch and visit with Darrell Hightower and several students from Crowder FFA (Bailey Abreo, Paden Snell, Colby Willson, Bryce Wilson, Alexis Cavener and Wyatt Hubbard). We also had administrators from Kiamichi Technology: Eddie Coleman, April Murray and Tony Korp, as well as a couple of their business partners, David and Heather Keith from the McAlester Regional Hospital. I took David to my Public Safety Committee so he could see firsthand how we make “sausage” at the Capitol.Other visitors to the Capitol this week were: Marilyn Turvey, Patty Valdez and HCC Students from KTC in McAlester; also Mark Ichord, Supt., and Mike Reddick, Principal, Hartshorne High School; Randy and Roberta Lopez and Randy and Debbie Roden from OSP. Krystal Gleese, who actually lives in Oklahoma City now but was my neighbor at one time in McAlester, also came by. Glad to have all of you. Have a blessed week. Matthew 5:44 – Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who…persecute you.