Sunshine Law had 'darkness' amendment added; H.B. 4118 awaits Senate hearing

Apr. 23—The "Sunshine Law" authored by State Sen. Blake "Cowboy" Stephens, is in the House of Representatives, but with a "darkness" amendment tacked on by State Rep. Josh West.

"It was on the agenda for April 22 and they didn't have time to hear all the bills, and hopefully they will hear it tomorrow," Stephens said. "They did put an 'unfriendly' amendment on it."

West, who has been opposed to S.B. 1200 since it was first proposed, managed to put in an amendment that it be locked on standard time, Stephens said.

At TDP deadline Tuesday, it had not been voted on by House members.

"I'm prayerful that this amendment will not succeed and the language will be in its original form as it was sent to the House," Stephens said. "And I feel like the surrounding states will follow suit [with similar bills]."

H.B. 4118 is still lingering in the Senate. It's a contentious bill; Spring Creek Coalition, the Five Tribes chiefs and Save the Illinois River group have come out against its passage, saying it shields poultry integrators.

State Rep. David Hardin, who authored the bill, said it was designed to prevent poultry waste from coming into contact with waters of the state. The bill proposes that growers who follow their approved Nutrient Management Plan cannot be sued if pollutants from their operation accidentally make it into a waterway.

"[H.B. 4118] has passed the House and was sent to the Senate and passed committee and is waiting for a floor hearing," Hardin said.

Beth Rooney, treasurer for the Spring Creek Coalition, said the group has been testing the stream for almost four years and there has been an upward trend of phosphorous over those years.

"The gist of this bill is, it shields the entire poultry industry — and it isn't the farmers I'm talking about, but the integrators like Simmons and Tyson," Rooney said. "Farmers are left with waste and dead carcasses. [The bill] shields everybody in the poultry industry."

Another bill authored by Stephens, to allow stick rockets in Oklahoma again, has cleared both Chambers and is ready for Governor Kevin Stitt's signature.

The bill gives fireworks manufacturers the opportunity to bring their complete line of pyrotechnics to Oklahoma. Stick rockets, which are a lot smaller than some shells and won't go as high as the "bigger boomers," have been banned in the state, Stephens said.

S.B. 1520, presented by State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton and Stephens, provides the ability for retired teachers to return to work sooner and with fewer restrictions on pay.

"[This bill is] on general order in the House, waiting to be heard," Pemberton said.