The governor went to work signing and vetoing legislation last week that was approved by both chambers, deciding if the measures would become law. While there were a number of great bills he approved, there were also several he decided to veto that would’ve made a positive impact on our state, especially in our rural communities. Consequently, we reconvened at the Capitol on Friday to override these vetoes, making these measures law.
Overriding a veto is a somber action that requires two-thirds majority of both chambers, meaning 68 representatives and 32 senators must vote “yes” for the override to pass. All of the measures we voted on easily hit this mark.
We overrode the vetoes of House Bill 4018 and Senate Bill 1002, which will greatly enhance the state’s ability to expand broadband access to rural Oklahoma. HB 4018 creates the Rural Broadband Expansion Council to study and map rural areas of the state needing broadband access. SB 1002 increases the membership of the council from 12 to 14 and specifies that the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate can each appoint an additional member to the board, with that person required to be a representative of a wireless telecommunications provider not affiliated with a carrier in Oklahoma.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how critical it is for all areas of the state to have access to high-speed internet. Our children in rural school districts should have the same opportunities to succeed as those living in urban areas. Increasing broadband equity across the state should be a priority moving forward, and the creation of the Rural Broadband Expansion Council is a great first step to truly determine the availability, quality and affordability of high-speed internet in rural communities across the state.
We also overrode the vetoes of HB 4049 and 3363, which modify laws regarding to tag agencies. HB 4049 changes the online tag renewal process for motor vehicle registrations by eliminating the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) as an option to process the renewals. Instead, individuals will be able to choose their preferred tag agent to perform this work on the site, which will funnel additional business to our small-town tag agents. Any motor license agent fees collected will be deposited into the state’s general revenue fund. The online registration process can also be confusing, so this modification will streamline the system to make it easier to find exactly what you need.
HB 3363 changes the reason the OTC can remove a tag agent from “at will” to “for cause.” This basically means that the OTC must have a specific reason for terminating a tag agent. This measure protects our tag agents while they carry out work on behalf of the state.
Finally, I’d like to remind you all to complete your census, if you haven’t already. Each person not accurately counted in the 2020 census can cost the state up to $16,750 in lost federal funding over the course of the next decade. That’s important funding for core services all Oklahomans rely on like health care, transportation and education.
As of May 21, Oklahoma was still ranked 44th in the nation in response rate. We can and must do better—if we don’t, we’ll be shortchanged our fair share of federal funding over the next 10 years. To complete the census, please visit 2020census.gov, call 844-330-2020 or return the questionnaire by mail.
Please continue to reach out to my office by calling 405-521-5555 or emailing Marty.Quinn@oksenate.gov if I can help you with something. I appreciate the opportunity to serve you all.