Thursday, April 5, 2012

Weekly Capitol Wrap

Below is a list of bills and issues that the Oklahoma House of Representatives debated and voted on this week.

House Urges Congress to Adopt Balanced Budget Amendment
            House lawmakers voted this week to urge Congress to adopt a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
            Senate Concurrent Resolution 33 declares that the Oklahoma Legislature “hereby calls upon the President and Congress of the United States of America to initiate the process of amending the Constitution of the United States to require a balanced budget annually, and to reduce both annual deficit spending levels and the national debt.”
            The resolution notes that national debt is now more than $15 trillion, an amount greater than the gross domestic product of the United States, and interest payments on the national debt now exceed $200 billion annually. The resolution also notes that the federal government has failed to approve a budget since 2009 and has not produced a balanced budget since 2001, and that the credit rating of the United States in 2011 was lowered for the first time.
            The measure states that “the fiscal policies of the United States federal government have placed our country on an unsustainable path, creating unprecedented debt, hindering job creation and threatening future generations of Americans with a diminished future” and “our nation's fiscal crisis threatens our economy and national security, has contributed to an erosion of trust in government, and exposes future generations to dire economic consequences.”
            Oklahoma has had a balanced budget amendment since 1941.

Committee Votes to Protect Second Amendment Rights
Members of a state House committee have voted to increase the legal protection of citizens’ constitutional rights.
            Senate Bill 1760 would specify that Oklahomans’ Second Amendment rights cannot be taken away during a declared state of emergency.
            Law enforcement officials reportedly seized guns from citizens who were not engaged in acts of lawlessness after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, which led many states to reconsider laws dealing with an official state of emergency.
            Senate Bill 1760 amends the Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act to state that “neither the governor nor any official of a municipal or state entity shall prohibit or suspend the sale, ownership, possession, transportation, carrying, transfer and storage of firearms, ammunition and ammunition accessories during a declared state of emergency that are otherwise legal under state law.” The bill would apply to situations where a state of emergency has been declared to deal with a public disorder, disaster, or riot.
            Under the bill, the Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act would continue to allow the governor to issue proclamations imposing a curfew, banning the sale of alcohol, targeting individuals using explosive devices,  and other activities the governor “reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property or the public peace” during a disaster or riot.
            Senate Bill 1760 passed the House Public Safety Committee on a bipartisan 12-0 vote. It now proceeds to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Approves Laser-sight Bill
House lawmakers have voted to allow individuals with physical challenges to participate in hunting by using modern technology.
            Senate Bill 1420 would allow individuals with physical disabilities to use laser-sighting devices when hunting.
            The bill would apply only to a select group of Oklahomans, including those who are certified as being afflicted with paraplegia or quadriplegia. Individuals covered by the exemption would have to be accompanied by a licensed hunter on private property.
            Senate Bill 1420 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 92-0 vote. It now returns to the state Senate.

State Revenue Picture Changing
Declining natural gas prices have apparently impacted the Oklahoma economy, according to a report issued by the state treasurer’s office, which announced that total revenue collections declined in March compared to prior-year numbers.
That is the first year-to-year decline experienced in two years.
            According to the state treasurer, March collections totaled $920.6 million, which was down $2.6 million or 0.3 percent from March 2011.
            The major decline came in with gross production tax revenue, which fell 36 percent.
            Income tax collections also dropped 1.5 percent, although sales tax collections were roughly 15 percent ahead of the same month last year.
            The treasurer’s report of gross sales tax collections includes remittances on behalf of municipalities, which means the true impact on the revenue available for appropriation won’t be known until later.

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