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.