The Norman City Council will discuss a one-eighth percent sales tax ballot initiative before its regularly scheduled meeting today.
The council will hold a conference at 5:30 p.m. to discuss how the tax would be used. The council currently favors allocating it toward the city's public transit system. If passed by Norman voters in November, that tax would take effect at the same time that a Cleveland County one-quarter percent sales tax was expiring or continuing at a reduced rate, depending on what voters choose.
In a separate ballot also in November, the county will ask voters to continue the tax at a reduced one-eighth percent.
According to the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, all county residents stand to benefit from the public safety investments planned for the tax continuation. Among the benefit the Sheriff's Office lists are: grants for rural fire departments; a funding stream for jail maintenance, operations, salaries and programs; funding for facility and program upgrades at the county's juvenile detention center; and better pay of Sheriff's Office deputies and staff.
If voters approve both sales tax initiatives in November, the one-quarter percent sales tax rate would effectively continue, but with half staying with the county and half going to the city. If the majority votes no on both, the one-quarter percent sales tax rate administered by the county would expire March 2020.
Following the conference, the council will take to the chambers at 6:30 p.m. to consider an update for the Norman's medical marijuana ordinance to match recent state law changes.
The City Council will review and vote on the amendments following a second reading and presentation from Beth Muckala, assistant city attorney. Council first reviewed the medical marijuana ordinance during a city council meeting Nov. 27.
"The state laws that are effective Aug. 29 have created some new licensure categories and some new types of businesses that we are updating our licensure process and our zoning use categories to match up with the state," Muckala said. "For instance, there is an education facility and testing laboratory that are brand new, so we are creating uses for those in our zoning ordinance and a licensure category."
According to the agenda, city staff presented state law updates for medical marijuana establishments on June 6 to the City Council Oversight Committee. The committee recommended staff draft an ordinance implementing state law definitions and licensing categories and establishing and refining zoning regulations to be consistent and compliant with state law that becomes effective Aug. 29.
Sections that will see amendments include licenses and occupations, several districts such as the general agriculture district, zoning ordinances and definitions.
A public comment period is scheduled before the council votes on the medical marijuana code update.
The council will vote on 11 items on the consent docket. Most are routine items, but a couple of items under consideration regard the Civil Rights ordinance amendments, accessible parking ordinance amendments and a homeland security program grant.
The Civil Rights Ordinance amendments look to modernize and include further protections for the LGBTQ+ community. The council discussed these amendments during the July 15 study session, and tonight will be the council's first reading.
The last substantive change was in 1996. In 2015, Norman United and other LGBTQ advocates requested a resolution that provided more protections, but it has been pending revisions since. Don Holladay, former local attorney and current adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma, worked closely with the amendments during the original draft and commented on the progress after the study session.
"It's more than just amendments. It's a total revision of the civil rights ordinance that hasn't been revised for a long time," Holladay said. "Of course the purpose of it is to include some protective statuses of persons that have not had that explicitly in the ordinance, although they have been covered by the resolution since December of 2015."
Another consent item considers changes for the Accessible Parking Ordinance, which would include increasing the fine to $500, a new section for regulation of parking in accessible parking spaces and immunity for disabled persons to paying meters.
Another consent item is for the homeland security program grant, which would be used by the police department to purchase monitoring equipment for special events. Specifically the department would be able to purchase range-finding binoculars, spotting scopes (with protective housings) and night vision binoculars. The $15,880 grant comes from the Special Grant Fund Balance.