Senate Review by Senator Roland Pederson; District #19

Beverly Cantrell - February 8, 2022 6:47 am

Sen. Roland Pederson

The 2022 legislative session has officially kicked off with the governor’s State of the State address, and we’ll be tackling a variety of issues important to Oklahomans across the state over the next few months.

            The governor highlighted the need for medical marijuana reform, and I wholeheartedly agree with this issue. We’ve seen a concerning trend over the last few of years of our agricultural lands being bought at astronomical prices – typically from foreigners – to use for marijuana grows. Part of the reason we’ve become such a hotbed for the marijuana industry is because of how cheap it is to get a grower’s license. The fee for a license is only $2,500, so it’s no wonder we have so many grows flocking to our state. We currently have about 8,300 cannabis farms in Oklahoma, which is more than any other state in the nation. Addressing how we can crackdown on illegal grows and keep Oklahoma lands owned by Oklahomans will be a big issue this session.

            As always, education will be at the forefront at the Capitol. The ongoing teacher shortage is something that will need to be addressed, and I’m hopeful we’ll look into what we can do to recruit new teachers and keep our current teachers here in the state. We’ve made historic investments in education since I’ve been here at the Capitol, and I don’t foresee our support for education wavering. With a positive budget outlook, I believe education funding will remain a top priority.

            Speaking of the budget, we are in a very strong financial position for this fiscal year. Last year, we passed a record $8.3 billion budget, and still managed to save about $800 million, which brought our state’s savings account to $1 billion. This year, the Board of Equalization has estimated we will have about $10.3 billion to spend, with about $9 billion coming from re-occurring revenues. I suspect we’ll continue to make targeted investments in our state agencies, while still being fiscally conservative and setting some aside in savings. From 2015-2017, we faced about $2.7 billion in revenue shortfalls, so it’s important we rebuild our safety net in case of an economic downturn in the future.

            As for me, I’ve filed several bills on a number of topics, ranging from ag sales tax exemptions to parental rights and foster care. I’ll keep you updated on my bills as they go through the legislative process.

            On another note – I’d like to send a big ‘thank you’ to all of those who were working during the winter storm to salt our roads and keep them clear. And as always, I appreciate our farmers and ranchers who were doing all they could to keep their stock warm and fed, especially during calving season. It takes a village to make sure our communities stay up and running during winter, and no doubt we have the best community out there.

Thank you for allowing me to be your voice at our state Capitol. Please feel free to reach out if there is anything I can help you with. You can contact me at 405-521-5630 or via email at [email protected].

 

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