Prison farmworker bill advances
A legislative panel approved a bill Monday that would direct the state Corrections Department to develop an inmate farmworker program. Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, House sponsor of Senate Bill 488, said the program would allow inmates to work at farms and ranches that have a contract with the state. Cockroft said the issue of liability still has to be resolved. The House budget subcommittee on public safety voted 9-1 to pass SB 488. It now goes to the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. Cockroft said it's likely the measure, if it wins House approval, would be sent to a conference committee to work out differences.
Panel OKs drought funding bill
A House budget subcommittee on natural resources and regulatory services voted 7-0 to pass a measure that would provide financial assistance to farmers and ranchers during droughts. Senate Bill 996, sponsored by Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, would create the Emergency Drought Protection Special Fund. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission would maintain the fund which would consist of funds appropriated to it. Money from the fund could be spent only when the governor declared a drought emergency to exist. SB 996 passed now goes to the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
State wins tobacco award
An Oklahoma County District Court judge awarded more than $47 million to the state in a case brought against a New York company selling illegal cigarettes, the attorney general's office said. The attorney general's office filed the case against Native Wholesale Supply in 2008 after the company began selling illegal cigarettes to Muscogee Creek Nation Wholesale, which was a violation of the Master Settlement Complementary Act. The cigarettes were manufactured by Grand River Enterprises — a tobacco product manufacturer in Canada — and were sold to the public by Muscogee Creek Nation Wholesale and tribal retailers. Under the master settlement act, cigarettes sold in Oklahoma must be on an approved list to be sold to the public. The cigarettes sold by Native Wholesale Supply had been removed from the list in 2006.
Ailing lawmaker returns
Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, returned Monday to the state Capitol after suffering a heart attack last week. Renegar said a stent was placed in a coronary artery that had 95 percent blockage.
MICHAEL MCNUTT, CAPITOL BUREAU