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New laws hit the books as calendar turns to November

Kateleigh Mills
Under the State Capitol dome in Oklahoma City

On November 1st, more than 200 bills became law in Oklahoma. We talk about a few of them this week on Capitol Insider.


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider - taking you inside politics, policy and government in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Shawn, more than 200 new state laws went into effect on November 1st. A few of those stand out. State employees will now be eligible for paid maternity leave for the birth or adoption of their child. It's a bit surprising there hadn't already been a law allowing that.

Shawn Ashley: It is surprising, isn't it? But as a result of Senate Bill 16, full-time state employees who have worked for the state for two years or more are now eligible for up to six weeks of paid maternity leave following the birth or adoption of their child. This bill, of course, was supported by female members of the legislature who discussed how difficult it can be to return to work very quickly after having a child. But the bill received overwhelming support from both male and female members of the legislature. Senate Bill 1121, which took effect July 1, makes six weeks of maternity leave available for teachers who have worked in their districts for at least one year.

Dick Pryor:  Another new law relates to ownership of land, and it's aimed at regulating marijuana businesses. What does this new law do?

Shawn Ashley: Well, this law expands on constitutional language that prohibits noncitizens from owning property in the state to include ownership through a business entity or a trust. And that's really where the aspect of the medical marijuana industry comes into play, as we saw business entities from outside the state making these land purchases. Now, in order to accomplish its goal, the new law requires a buyer to submit a signed affidavit attesting that the property is being lawfully acquired before a county clerk can record the deed. Attorney General Gentner Drummond praised the bill's passage, along with a group of others as “a much-needed tool to help law enforcement agencies combat the illegal marijuana operations across our state that are jeopardizing public safety and harming our communities,” he said in June.

Dick Pryor: Oklahoma liquor laws have changed significantly over the last few years. The newest law makes cocktail tasting flights or small pours of mixed drinks legal. Why was this necessary?

Shawn Ashley: Well, Oklahoma has allowed its breweries and its wineries to offer small amounts of their products for tastings for a number of years, which they say is key to helping promote and sell their products. And now the state is seeing growth in its distillery industry. There are businesses making whiskey, vodka, and tequilas, and they wanted the same opportunities as beer and wine makers to distribute their products in order to promote their sale. And that's exactly what House Bill 2251 does. It gives them that opportunity to make so-called tasting flights available to consumers who then might purchase full bottles of their product.

Dick Pryor: For the first time in more than 20 years. Oklahoma is increasing juror pay, and it's a big jump, more than double.

Shawn Ashley: That's right. Juror pay has been increased from $20 per day to $50 a day. But let's think about that for a moment. At $20 a day, that was equal to less than 3 hours of work at minimum wage and even at $50 a day, it's less than a full day's work at minimum wage. But it is a little closer. This is something that individuals said was necessary to help those individuals who were serving on juries not lose money from their workdays.

Dick Pryor: And for doing their civic duty.

Shawn Ashley: Exactly.

Dick Pryor: And finally, vehicle registration. The new law allows drivers to renew their registration for two years instead of only one. Why was registration required every year, anyway?

Shawn Ashley: Well, we often forget that motor vehicle registration fees are essentially a property tax. So just like we pay our property taxes annually and file or pay and get a refund of a portion of our individual income taxes, we pay an annual registration or property tax on our motor vehicles. Now, there had been similar bills proposed in the past and even an interim study on the issue a few years ago. But that legislation never made it to the governor's desk for his consideration. As you might expect, a two-year registration fee is going to cost twice as much as a one-year fee. So, you will need to keep that in mind if you opt for the two-year registration when you renew it online or at your local tag agent.

Dick Pryor: Thank you, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. For more information, go to quorumcall.online. You can find audio and transcripts at kgou.org and look for Capitol Insider where you get your podcasts. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

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Dick Pryor has more than 25 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November, 2016.
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