On Monday, the Oklahoma State Senate arbitrarily killed what was known by supporters in the community and around the Capitol as “the cedar bill”
Six members of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee were unwilling to work with Vice Chair and Senate author Ron Justice to make changes in a Conference Committee and simply killed the bill without offering options.
Rep. Richard Morrissette, Oklahoma City, author of HB2695 the Oklahoma Resource Reclamation Act, worked on the bill for two years, reaching out to Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese , wardens of the state’s prisons, the Oklahoma State Tax Commission, Weyerhaeuser, OSU and dozens of small cedar business owners requesting input on the concept. As a result, a committee substitute was developed and the bill moved through the toughest scrutiny of two House Appropriation hearings without a single dissenting vote.
“I’m in the process of looking into why this happened. Rumors abound about specific special interests responsible for protecting some future business venture. But, let me say that by orchestrating this act, you who are responsible have taken a shot at the health and welfare of all Oklahomans to include city and county officials in urban and rural areas who cannot afford to wait on some possible piece of pie-in-the-sky. When the state explodes in cedar fires this summer, and the water wars continue in the courts, I will be in front of every TV camera and radio talk show mic to periodically report on my investigation and to remind volunteer firefighters, owners of burned out businesses and homes and farmers and ranchers who have lost their businesses
and ponds to cedar encroachment just who is responsible for holding up cedar removal efforts.”
“According to HB2686 of 2010, the original statutes dealing with cedar, we are supposed to be finding ways to incentivize market development to utilize the cedar and the new bill was to address obstacles now facing investors. When people with big pipe dreams come to Oklahoma and sell their snake oil to gullible top state officials, we end up stalling progress on dozens of mid-sized but manageable shovel-ready ventures.”
“I want to thank Senator Justice for his efforts as well as Sen. Allen, Barrington, Ellis and Simpson for having the practical good sense and the courage to stand up to elements soon to be identified.” concluded Morrissette.
The Department of Agriculture now estimates 1 million acres lost to production or usefulness with 700 additional acres overtaken each day to further threaten the state’s drought ridden $28 billion farm and ranch interests. The actual overall toll on the state due to Eastern Red Cedar encroachment is considered to be incalculable as water loss is mounting at 80 gallons per tree per day and wildlife habitat rapidly devastated, both essential to the environment and commerce.