House Recognizes Ag Day
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution declaring Thursday, March 24, 2022, as Oklahoma Agriculture Day.
House Resolution 1046 was authored by House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Chair Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee. The resolution was adopted by unanimous consent.
“Our world cannot operate without this vital industry, which we saw firsthand after the significant shortages in the food supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kerbs said. “Agriculture provides jobs for thousands of people and food for millions more, and I’m glad to carry this resolution to recognize its valuable impact.”
The resolution affirms that agriculture is one of Oklahoma’s leading industries and its associated production, processing and marketing segments together provide a major source of employment for the state’s workforce. It also states that the performance of the agriculture economy is vital to maintaining the strength of Oklahoma’s economy, the standard of living for Oklahomas and the state’s presence in world trade markets
Manger Celebrates Passage of Legislation Adjusting Ad Valorem Taxes for Seniors
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Robert Manger, R-Oklahoma City, celebrated the passage of a house joint that would adjust ad valorem taxes for certain Oklahomans if approved by the voters resolution.
House Joint Resolution 1047 would freeze the assessed value of a home when it comes to ad valorem taxes for Oklahomans when they reach the age of 65.
“I filed this legislation because it has the potential to really help a lot of our most vulnerable Oklahomas,” Manger said. “By freezing this valuation, Oklahomas 65 and older can more properly budget their fixed incomes from year to year. I’m thankful that the majority of my colleagues in the House agreed that this is a good piece of legislation, and I’m hopeful to see it pass in the Senate as well.”
If passed by the Legislature, HJR 1047 would direct the Secretary of State to put the issue on the ballot for a vote of the people.
HJR 1047 passed by a vote of 83-13 and is now eligible to be heard by the Senate.
Law enforcement support measures pass Senate
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate approved a pair of law enforcement bills Thursday to streamline services and improve training, while also providing better mental health support for Oklahoma’s public safety personnel. The measures, authored by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, was recommended by the Unified State Law Enforcement Commission, which is made up of the state’s top public safety officials, including the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) Director , the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBNDDC) Director, the Cabinet Secretary of Public Safety, and the state Attorney General, along with an appointmentee of the governor, the Senate Pro Tem and the House Speaker. The commission was created by the David last session and their recommendations were highlighted as a priority in the governor’s State of the State Address in February.
Senate Bill 1612, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Unification Act, would consolidate the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP), the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBNDDC) under the Department of Public Safety ( DPS) in 2023. The bill would also create a Mental Wellness Division. David noted that Oklahoma is currently one of only three states with a split state public safety system.
“This bill is the result of months of work put in by this commission of our state’s top public safety officials, visiting with hundreds of law enforcement members from various agencies around the state to hear their concerns and ideas about how Oklahoma can improve recruitment and retention . The top needs were for better training, more career opportunities and better access to mental health,” David said. “Unifying these agencies will address all of these and improve services through better collaboration and uniform training. We must ensure all public safety personnel get the same high-level training, so they can easily move from one area of law enforcement to another, giving them more career opportunities whether they’re highway patrol or want to go into investigations, drug enforcement or other areas. I’m proud of this piece of legislation and appreciate my Senate colleagues’ support.”
SB 1613 directs DPS to establish and maintain the Mental Wellness Division to provide mental health services and programs to public safety personnel and their families. The bill would authorize the division to enter into public/private partnerships for services. It also would establish a revolving fund and a not-for-profit foundation to raise monies for the fund.
“Oklahoma’s public safety members are some of the best and most professional in the nation, but these are extremely difficult and mentally taxing jobs. Unfortunately, many won’t seek help for their mental health because of embarrassment, stigma, or fear of career repercussions,” David said. “Depression, anxiety, addiction, and mental exhaustion are common for these heroes from the constant traumas they face, and that also negatively impacts their marriages and other relationships. Just as they protect all of us, we need to protect them and their families, which includes their mental health.”
David held an interim study in 2020 where law enforcement officers from various agencies around the state and mental health experts pointed out that public safety officers and other first responders suffer from much higher rates of PTSD, suicide, divorce, depression, and addiction than the public . According to the Ruderman Foundation, 35% of officers have PTSD and 31% suffer from depression while only 7% of the public experience either. A 2018 National Fraternal Order of Police study found that more than 16% of officers have had suicidal thoughts, over 65% have sleep problems or disorders and nearly 61% have intrusive or unwanted memories, including images, sounds and smells from the traumas they have to witness. The study also found that more than 52% of officers have or are facing relationship problems. Over 90% report stigma keeps them from seeking treatment and also they believe the public lacks awareness of the critical stress in their profession.
The bills are now eligible for consideration in the House where Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is carrying them.