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Local lawmakers preprare for start of legislative session

With the 2020 session of the Oklahoma Legislature scheduled to start next week, two local lawmakers are preparing for their sophomore year.
Reps. Jay Steagall and Denise Crosswhite Hader have each filed at least three pieces of legislation they hope to move forward this year.
The session begins Monday.
Both have filed several bills. However, in the case of Steagall, only three have language. The others are “shell” bills that can be used later, if needed.
Crosswhite Hader said she has filed six pieces of legislation, two of which also are “shell” bills.
Steagall said several of his bills are meant to clean up language in legislation that previously had been approved and signed into law.
Among those is House Bill 3071.
Steagall said it is a second amendment bill that makes it clear where people can carry weapons.
“It will provide some clarification,” said Steagall, a military veteran who owns a gun shop in Yukon.
Steagall said the proposal has support from several organizations, including the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.
The proposal would make it clear the people can carry weapons, both open carry or concealed, in streets, alleyways, sidewalks and in some nonprofit organizations.
At this time, he said, that is not clear.
“There were some issues about where people could and couldn’t carry their weapons. These are areas commonly know as public properties. It puts it in writing,” the lawmaker said.
As for the nonprofits, currently people can carry concealed weaposn, but need the nonprofit’s permission to “open carry.”
HB-3072 is a public finance bill that would remove a requirement that an outside vendor monitor and audit the integrity of the Oklahoma military’s network.
Steagall said the requirement is not necessary because the network is maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense.
“To put them on a list to get third-party audits on their cyber security is kind of crazy. They can’t do it anyway. The DOD won’t allow a third party to come in,” he said.
Steagall’s other piece of legislation is HB-3073, which cleans up language about the duties of the state board of corrections.
The Legislature has given the governor the authority to hire certain positions, including the Corrections director. However, those duties, including setting the salary, had been previously handled by the DOC board.
Steagall said his legislation would put that role under the governor.
“I am excited about the session. We’re looking at a wide range of issues this session. The tempo is stll good. Momentum is carrying over from last year, which is a good thing,” he said.
One challenge the lawmakers may face this year, however, is a slow down in the economy.
“We’re expecting the budget to be flat. We are expecting what we had last year,” Stegall said.
That may mean reducing some budgets within agencies, which he said is something Gov. Kevin Stitt would like to see happen.
“We are getting more efficient in how we are handling taxpayer dollars. Even with a flat budget, we can still provide the funds to our agencies that will allow them to complete their mission,” he said.
Crosswhite Hader said she filed four active bills, including one that will allow people to protect themselves without fear of becoming a criminal.
HB-3015 would change a state law that says when a person points a weapon at someone to protect themselves, they wouldn’t be charged if the don’t fire the weapon.
As of now, a person can be charged with feloniously pointing a firearm.
“Sometimes, you may draw and not fire. This would make it so you don’t become a criminal,” she said.
Another piece of legislation, HB-3016, would require hotels, motels and inns to provide information about tornado safety to their guests similar to what now is provided for fire safety.
Part of the information would not only be what to do in case of a sever storm, but what city and county they are in.
Crosswhite Hader also is continuing her efforts related to prisoner mental health issues with HB-3017.
Last year, Crosswhite Hader was able to get legislation passed that removed a requirement that all mental health prisoners be housed at the Oklahoma State Prison in McAlester.
That prison normally only houses male inmates.
Crosswhite Hader’s legislation last year change the law to allow the doctors to determine where to best treat the prisoner.
This year’s legislation would clarify where those medical professionals would be located.
She said this would give the Department of Mental Health some flexibility.
Another piece of legislation, HB-3018, would also changes how abandoned property is handled.
Currently, when a property owner doesn’t pay taxes, the property reverts to the county, which then must maintain it.
Crosswhite Hader, who is married to District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader, said that is frequently done by Homeowner Associations, which are required to have green space.
Crosswhite Hader said many HOAs have used the loophole of not paying taxes as a way of avoid the costs associated wth maintaining the property.
She said Cleveland County spent more than $38,000 last year to maintain abandoned property.
Her proposal would give counties more options in deciding whether the property should revert to the county.
Crosswhite Hader said she is looking forward to the session.
“It will be different. Last year, everyone had such a learning curve, including the governor. We will be a little more confident this year,” she said.
Like Steagall, Crosswhite Hader said creating a budget will be a challenge.
“We won’t have any surplus of funds, so we have to be mindful of that,” she said.
Attempts to reach Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, were not immediately successful.
The legislative session begins Monday with Stitt offering his State of the State address.

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