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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Tulsa County’s Legislative Agenda Began Last Summer

Tulsa County Commissioner

While the 2019 Legislative Session will officially begin Feb. 4, the work to finalize Tulsa County’s legislative agenda began last summer.

With input from all of the county’s elected officials and division directors, the legislation being proposed is a mix of new issues as well as some that were unfinished from the last legislative session.

In each case, the primary focus is twofold: (1) to improve the services to the citizens of Tulsa County and (2) to find ways to improve the efficiency of county government.

One of the most important services provided by county government is public safety. As in other areas of our lives, new technology is rapidly transforming the delivery of public safety services.

As new technology becomes available there are times when it becomes necessary to enact new legislation in order to keep pace with new technology.

This is the case with the use of body worn cameras and the use of DNA for criminal investigations. If 70 of the Sheriff’s Deputies had BWC’s, it would cost over $70,000 a year to store the video. Current law requires all footage to be stored for seven years, so with each year that goes by, the cost doubles and triples.

To get the best and most affordable use of the BWC, legislation is necessary to address what must be kept, and for how long. The use of DNA is now moving from just being used at crime scenes to being used in jails shortly after an offender is arrested.
New technology called Rapid DNA is now available and will allow detention officers to know if the person being booked into jail is a person of interest in other crimes anywhere across the country before the offender can be released. Legislation to allow the use of Rapid DNA in jails is one of our key priorities.

In the area of county public works, more and more areas of the county are being developed for both residential and commercial purposes. At the outset, the developer is responsible for putting in the road leading to the development before any of the development begins.

Under the current law, the developer is required to guarantee the workmanship of the new road for just one year. In many instances by the time the development is completed, which can take years, the condition of the road from the heavy construction traffic is in substandard condition and the county has to pay to improve the road. Legislation will be introduced that would require the developer to carry a maintenance bond up to five years to ensure the road is in good condition when the development is completed.

One of our other legislative priorities will be in the area of jury service. Currently, the law does not exempt city law enforcement officers from jury service.

When an officer is summoned to jury duty, he or she will be paid by the city for their absence, and paid allowed juror fees by the county. Also, the city will have to pay another officer to cover the shift of the officer summoned for jury duty.

In reality, city law enforcement officers are never selected to serve on either criminal or civil cases because of the perception by either side in the lawsuit that the officer may have a bias to one side or the other. As a result, a great deal of taxpayer dollars are being spent because the officer has to show up for jury duty once he receives a summons. Our legislation would exempt law enforcement officers from both criminal and civil jury service.

The county will also be very attentive to any actions taken by the Legislature to implement the new medical marijuana law. Of particular interest to the county will be the decisions made by the Legislature regarding zoning, permitting, inspections, applications and law enforcement.

Many cities have attempted to pass ordinances in these areas but all of these have been put on hold by Judges across Oklahoma until the Legislature has provided rules and regulations to guide local decisions.

Finally, it’s important to the county that anytime a voter approved capital improvements project is undertaken, the selection of the most qualified construction company for the job is also the best expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

Currently, when the county announces its intentions to start a large capital project, a request for qualifications is sent to construction companies, requesting that they submit their credentials to demonstrate why they are best qualified for the project. However, there is no requirement that the companies also advise the county on what they believe it will cost to do the project.

Under current law, the determination of the project costs can only be negotiated after the “most qualified” contractor is selected.

The county believes the law should be changed to make the selection of the construction manager a two step process: (1) select the companies which the county finds are qualified to do that job and then (2) request those qualified to submit their bids to do the project. With this change, the county will be able to compare and analyze the costs each qualified bidder has submitted and make the selection based upon what is in the best financial interest of the taxpayer.

Updated 11-16-2018

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