STATE Rep. Richard Morrissette has tried for years to craft workable policy to reduce the number of Eastern red cedar trees in Oklahoma. He will keep trying as he enters the last of his six two-year terms in the Legislature.
Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, who drew no challenger for the November election, has requested an interim study to look at failed policies of the past, and “promising options to finally address threats to life, land and our Oklahoma economy.” His is one of 93 House interim study proposals that House Speaker Jeff Hickman will be vetting.
Simply put, Eastern red cedar trees are a menace. An estimated 462 million of them are growing across Oklahoma. They can consume up to 40 gallons of water daily, which only makes drought conditions worse. The trees reduce wildlife habitat, and their oily branches serve as explosive tinder for wildfires.
In his request for an interim study, Morrissette details several previous legislative initiatives related to the Eastern red cedar. These include bills that wound up getting vetoed, or efforts that never got off the ground. Among them was a 2012 bill to use state inmate labor to harvest the trees. “Not a single tree was harvested by state housed inmates,” Morrissette noted.
Hickman, R-Fairview, should grant Morrissette’s request to try anew. Other worthwhile interim study proposals are in the hopper as well.
One, by Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, would study “smart on crime” programs. Cleveland has been keen on corrections since winning his House seat in 2012 and has been frustrated by his colleagues’ reluctance to support even nominal changes to criminal justice statutes — unless those changes expand or increase punishments.
Along a similar vein, Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, wishes to evaluate the state’s sex-offender laws. Thomsen’s goal is to “look at how we classify sex offenders and look at potential ways to improve the system.” He’s likely to find the laws broad and highly punitive, even for lower-level offenders. But good luck trying to persuade fellow members to amend any of those statutes!