In just over two weeks, Oklahoma legislators will return to the state capitol to begin the 2019 legislative session. Out of more than the 2,800 bills filed, seven of those belong to Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, of District 49.
Hardin said the inspiration for his bills come from his constituents.
“A lot of people contact me in the district when I’m out and about,” Hardin said. “These are ideas that people have given me, and I just try to represent them as well as I can.
His first bill, HB 1189, would name a section of U.S. Highway 77 between Marietta and Thackerville the Trooper Leon H. Brown Memorial Highway. Brown, who passed away in 2012, served as an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper for 25 years.
“He was very well thought of in the Love County area,” Hardin said. “Someone approached me back in the fall and they thought it would be nice to honor him and his family by renaming that stretch of highway,” Hardin said.
Hardin’s next bill, HB 1190, deals with agricultural extension work. According to the text, it would “require contract and cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry for certain agricultural extension work,” and would require the department “to appoint all county cooperative extension service personnel.”
Hardin said programs like the OSU extension service are extremely important to rural Oklahoma, but the funds used for the OSU extension service are determined by OSU and their Board of Regents. Hardin said that while the legislature appropriates money for OSU, the university decides where and how that money is spent. As a consequence, Oklahoma counties are being asked to pay an increasing amount to help foot the bill of the extension service.
“I don’t know if this will go anywhere,” Hardin said. “I’m just trying to get both sides talking to see if we can come up with a solution instead of just always going to the counties asking for more and more money.
Hardin said HB1191 deals with the rules regulating how cities and towns go about the annexation and de-annexation process.
“One of the county commissioners brought it to my attention that some towns can de-annex a place but keep all property on both sides of the roadway,” Hardin said. “Basically the road turns back over to the county and then the county will have to fix it up. Then after it’s fixed, the city can re-annex the property.”
Hardin said that he is unsure if this situation has ever occurred but this bill would prevent it from happening.
Hardin said HB1218 would give county commissioners the ability to enact burn bans when temperatures remain over 100 degrees for several days even if otherwise conditions would not merit the ban.
“It’s more about protection,” Hardin said. “One of my local fire department chiefs called me and said you’re really setting firefighters up for heat stroke and those kinds of problems if they are out there for several days.”
Hardin said HB1219 requires the Oklahoma Corporation Committee to investigate well sites in order to determine if damage has been done. Once the Corporation Committee determines if damage occurred, the court system and juries would determine the value of the damage.
“Having to go through the court system right away and have a jury that may or may not know anything about oil and whether or not damage has been done to me is probably not very efficient,” Hardin said “If the Corporation Committee is in charge of that, they can actually determine whether damage has been done or not.”
HB1220 relates to conveyances and requires those who make false statements to pay court costs and attorneys’ fees for those who are then forced to correct the record.
“One of my constituents had some property that they sold,” Hardin said. “Somebody had gone into the courthouse and filed something that said they had some interest in that land which they really didn’t have. I was trying to find a way to correct that, and it looks like there’s no easy way to do that.”
Hardin said that it would be unreasonable for the court clerks and their staff to research whether or not a person filing paperwork has any true interest in the company. Instead, he thought creating a statute that would require those who knowingly make false statements to pay attorneys’ fees and costs might help the situation.
Hardin’s final bill, HB1221, would make a small change in fees to the Veterans of Foreign Wars specialty license plates. The cost would increase from $8 per tag to $15 per tag. The incremental money raised would go to the VFW.
“The VFW had contacted me about running some bills,” Hardin said. “This will act as a kind of funding mechanism for them.”