Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Legislative Work Continues with Interim Studies

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! The legislative schedule has much in common with annual school schedule Oklahoma’s children follow.

The annual session of the Oklahoma Legislature ends in late May just as thousands of Oklahoma students begin summer vacations. In the late summer/early fall, school starts up again and the Capitol begins to buzz with activity.

While the 2008 session of the Legislature is still more than five months away, legislative committees are beginning to work on issues that will be before us next year. This process is called “interim studies,” and is the time we in the Legislature use to look at issues without the enormous time pressure of the regular four-month session.

The idea is to gather as much information as possible. That way, when crunch-time arrives in February, we will be better prepared to make decisions in the best interest of the people we represent.

As the Democratic chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, my co-chair and I are in the process of looking at study requests assigned to our committee. Jointly, we will decide how to conduct the investigation.

Five studies have been assigned to the Energy Committee; in addition, the committee – along with the House Energy Committee – will serve as a statutory task force to examine regulation of the state’s electric utilities. All of that will lead to a number of meetings during the fall and early winter.

The list of studies assigned to the Energy and Environment Committee includes:

● A review of Oklahoma’s environmental laws and their effect on construction permitted for state projects;
● An investigation into “balanced energy use”;
● An examination of current oil and gas reserves in Oklahoma and the economic impact that depleting reserves may have on state budgets in the years ahead; and
● A pair of studies relating to the use of Oklahoma’s water resources.

The studies into the Oklahoma’s oil and gas reserves and our water resources are the most intriguing of those assigned to the committee. Both studies will look into gifts the Lord has given Oklahoma and our stewardship of them.

Our state’s energy reserves have been a key component of our economic strength since statehood. The economy of my Senate district is being strengthened because of the new exploration for gas in southeastern and south-central Oklahoma – areas that have not enjoyed this kind of large-scale exploration.

Of course, few issues are as emotional and important as the proper use of Oklahoma’s water resources. Some of the bitterest legislative fights in which I have participated have been about protecting our water so that it can be used to build a brighter future for our area.

The stage is set again for more clashes. Hopefully, the studies will allow us to develop a plan that is in the best interest of all Oklahomans. That is my goal, and I look forward to the work ahead.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

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