By. Sen. JOSEPH SILK
Last week marked the final week for full Senate consideration of bills that were introduced by our members and were approved at the committee level.
The next step in the legislative process will be for the House to begin committee work on the bills that began in the Senate and made it out of our chamber. Likewise, we will begin committee consideration of their measures.
Still to be addressed this session is the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. With a $611 million dollar reduction in available state dollars, the challenge to appropriate funds to the most critical services, including education, public safety, health, mental health and transportation remains at the top of the priorities this session.
In order to do that, we will be searching for ways to help state agencies identify savings and further prioritize their allocations.
With a shortfall of this size, there is no way to completely avoid budget cuts.
However, it is critical to approach them as thoughtfully and carefully as possible.
I’m very pleased that Senate Bill 788, authored by my colleague, Sen. Dan Newberry, was approved by the full Senate before the first deadline passed.
SB 788 would protect clergy members and others who are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies from being required to perform those duties if it conflicts with the officiant’s religious beliefs.
It would not only protect officiants who are authorized by law to solemnize a marriage, it would also shield churches from being required to participate in ceremonies that might conflict for religious reasons.
The legislation wouldn’t prevent anyone from seeking marriage services, but it would send our pastors and churches a strong message, letting them know that we not only believe in their religious freedoms and beliefs, but also in their right to exercise those liberties. SB 788 is now headed to the House.
I am the Senate co-author of two House bills now headed to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 1911 would eliminate restrictions on certain types of knives people can carry and essentially would reduce regulations and return certain rights back to the people of Oklahoma.
The second House bill I’ve co-authored is HB 1652, which would move an archery hunting tag and license expiration date to Jan. 15 instead of the current Dec. 31.
This is just a common sense approach to make the tags valid until the end of the hunting season.
I’ve also been working with constituents in regard to modifying various statues that could help keep electrical co-ops more accountable.
I will expand on that topic in more depth in the coming weeks, as well as discuss an interesting update on water issues.
I welcome your questions and concerns, so please feel free to contact my office at the State Capitol if you would like to discuss a particular issue or problem. Our office can be reached by phone at 405.521.5614 or by email at [email protected].