The Legislature convened into two separate special sessions last week.
In the legislatively called session, we considered seven measures to appropriate some of the state's $1.8 billion portion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. I voted for measures that addressed the nursing workforce shortage by expanding training slots in our Career Technology Center system. I also voted on a bill that appropriates $20 million to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to establish a grant program and to match tribal investment in rural water infrastructure projects. The Choctaw Nation is providing a match, which I very much appreciate, so I was supportive of this bill.
I had to vote against several other measures, however, including one that appropriates $25 million to nonprofits that administer state programs. I'm supportive of nonprofits, but this bill did not specify how these funds would be spent or what programs would be supported. I need to know details before I sign my name to a measure.
We adjourned this special session to a call of the chair. This will allow the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding to continue to meet during the interim to make further recommendations on additional projects. The Legislature will then convene again to consider those. I want to make sure we leave enough time for each member to examine the bills that will be proposed so we know where the money is going and on what it will be spent.
In the special session called by the governor, we passed several versions of bills that would either permanently eliminate the state's portion of sales tax on groceries and lower the personal income tax rate by .25% in all brackets or that would put a two-year moratorium on the tax relief. I voted for these measures. In fact, I would vote to cut taxes all day long. I want to specify, however, that on the grocery tax, it would just affect the state's portion. Cities and counties rely on these taxes to pay for police and fire protection and many other services on which their citizens rely, and it should be up to local residents to determine those tax rates.
The Senate said they would not vote on these measures claiming it was because the House adjourned this special session sine die. We left our clerk's desk open so they could still process the bills if the Senate chooses to take them up, but that remains to be seen.
Remember to listen to me on KPRV Radio at 7:30 a.m. every Thursday for my legislative update.
As always, if I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rick West serves District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes part of LeFlore County.