A few weeks ago, I highlighted one of my bills, House Bill 3500, which deals with regulations concerning drones. The bill would add crude oil storage facilities to the list of structures drones are not allowed to fly over. It also prohibits the use of infrared cameras on drones to gather information about these facilities.

I worked closely with the Safety Alliance of Cushing to develop this legislation, since Cushing is a major player in the state, national and international oil industries. The tank farms in Cushing and other areas of the state which store millions of barrels of oil need to be protected, and that remains my priority.

However, there’s still work to be done on the wording of the bill. With such an important issue, I want to make sure the bill says exactly what it needs to say in order to protect these critical infrastructure facilities, without any unintended consequences, such as creating a hardship for drone operators who do important work in our state.

I plan to bring together a meeting with stakeholders in Cushing, commercial drone operators, the Federal Trade Commission, the Dept. of Homeland Security, and other interested parties so we can develop a final version of the bill to bring up next session.

Meanwhile, the House passed some great legislation this week, most notably House Bill 3350 to give retired state employees their first cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 12 years.

The House passed legislation to grant a COLA last year, but the Senate had some concerns over the fiscal security of our pension systems. Leaders spent quite a bit of time during the interim negotiating the best approach to providing a COLA and eventually reached an agreement in the bill we passed this week.

HB3350 would provide a COLA dependent on how long a person has been retired. Those retired for five years or more will receive a 4% COLA; those retired at least two years but less than five will receive a 2% adjustment; and those retired for less than two years won’t receive a COLA at this time.

The House also approved legislation to require every person under the age of 18 to wear a seat belt when in the back seat of a car. Current statute requires only that children under age 8 be buckled up, making Oklahoma the only state in the country with such policy. Our state has the highest amount of car crash fatalities among children. Over half of deaths and serious injuries in car crashes can be prevented with proper use of seat belts.

This week, the House passed House Bill 3113, which is named the “Sarah Stitt Act” after our First Lady. The bill was inspired by her efforts in the fall to organize career fairs for prisoners across the state prior to their release so they have the connections to get a job and find housing as soon as they leave our criminal justice system. The bill also requires that, if they earned a certification in a trade while imprisoned, they have that certification ready and can show they’re trained to find a job in their area.

Similarly, the House passed House Bill 1310, which requires state IDs be issued to people as they leave incarceration. Valid IDs are required to apply for a job, get approved for housing, and even visit a food shelter.

Both HB1310 and HB3113 were priority bills for me, as I feel it is so important to help give these people a fresh start. This is an issue I’ve discussed with many people in prisons across the state who have said this will make a big difference for them! I applaud my colleagues, Rep. Brian Hill and Rep. Marilyn Stark, for authoring this legislation.

We also unanimously passed House Bill 1966, which allows commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to be renewed within tag agencies rather than only in a DMV location. This shortens wait time for employees using CDLs for their jobs and helps make our government more efficient for you.

I also had a page this week! Grace Richards from Yale joined me on the House floor during voting. She was very attentive and asked thoughtful questions throughout the process, and she was a big help completing a project in my office. She’s a great young lady and I really enjoyed having her at the Capitol this week!

I wrote last week about an event hosted at OSU by Resilient Payne County and wanted to provide an update that the event has been postponed to a future date. Be watching for more details on this important seminar.

I encourage you to reach out to me at (405) 557-7304 or john.talley@okhouse.gov. Thank you for the opportunity to serve!

Rep. John Talley, a Republican, serves District 33 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which covers Logan and Payne Counties.

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