Range of issues being tackled at Capitol

by Jessica Garvin

Our weeks have been crammed at the Capitol this fall with many interim studies, redistricting work, pandemic federal funding meetings and other legislative business. I thought I’d give you a look into some of the issues being studied in the Senate, and there are just as many being looked at across the rotunda in the House.

As I mentioned before, around 70 interim studies were approved by the Senate Pro Tem. Around 20 of them have already taken place and presentations from these are available on the Senate website at www.oksenate.gov. Just to give you an idea of the range of issues being tackled, Senate committees have studied the prevalence of overprescribing in the medical field, equitable farm tax exemptions, expanding energy resources through natural gas, criminal sentencing reform and reclassification, and agricultural sales tax exemption requirements. They’ve also looked at enhancing economic opportunity and quality of life for disabled Oklahomans through improved transportation, equitable procurement for minority and women-owned businesses, what is keeping Oklahomans from returning to the workforce, and the prevalence of youth suicide in our state.

Interim studies are live streamed on the Senate website and must be concluded by Friday, Nov. 5. Upcoming studies will cover teacher qualitative pay, medical marijuana tax funds, funding for historically black colleges and universities, supporting pregnant women in higher education, and revenue refund provisions. They’ll look at equality issues relating to racial discrimination in state agencies and businesses, teaching certificate scholarship program, and teacher credentialing and certification. These studies will also be examining film and media arts for K-12 students, helping individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities successfully transition from school to adulthood, SAFE task force kits and the OSBI’s response to sexual assaults.

The Redistricting Committee is continuing their work to redraw the boundaries of Oklahoma’s five congressional districts. Several virtual and in-person town hall meetings wereheld statewide this summer to gather public input on the process. Public map submissions will be accepted through this coming Sunday, Oct. 10. Each Oklahoma citizen may submit one map that must include a statewide plan for all five congressional seats. Maps can be submitted at redistricting@oksenate.gov, along with any other questions or comments. More information on the process can be found under Redistricting on the Senate website.

The Redistricting Committee is also working on finalizing the legislative districts given the final census counts provided in August by the U.S. Census Bureau were different than the estimates the bureau gave to the state earlier this year. The new congressional districts and updated legislative districts will be voted on by the legislature in a special session the week of Nov. 15.

The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding is also holding regularly scheduled meetings to look at possible ways to utilize the state’s nearly $1.9 billion in American Rescue Act Plan funding. This money must be used to respond to the public health emergency and negative outcomes caused by the pandemic. While I’m not on this committee, I’m following their work closely as to how these one-time funds are used and will impact our state for generations. While the governor will make the final decision on how these funds will be spent, this committee will provide recommendations based on input they’re gathering from state agencies and other stakeholders in the business community. This will be a long process as the federal funds don’t have to be allocated until December 2024 and expended until December 2026.  I highly recommend tuning into their weekly meetings. If you’d like to follow along, the meetings are livestreamed on the Senate website as well. 

If you have any questions or concerns on legislative matters, please contact me at the Capitol. Please write to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Jessica.Garvin@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5522.