This Thursday is the deadline to report Senate bills out of committees. So far, nearly 400 bills have been approved in committee with more than 600 remaining. While we did our best to get as many bills through committee last Thursday and Friday, we have fallen behind from being closed the first three days of last week because of dangerous road conditions.
Four of my bills have made it out of committee. SB677 would allow court records for a domestic relations case involving a minor to be destroyed after 20 years, and files not involving a minor be destroyed after 10 years. Protective order records could be destroyed a year after the case is dismissed or a decade after the order was issued. In today’s world of technology most records are digitized, and this will allow courts to free up storage space and be more efficient.
SB683 removes the requirement for full-time nonclassified optional personnel to be employed for a full year before joining the Teachers’ Retirement System.
SB736 allows health districts to be comprised of multiple county health departments so they can share resources and extend public health programs.
SB840 increases the cap to $25,000 (up from $15,000) for county purchases or lease agreements that don’t have to follow bidding procedures. Getting bids is extremely time consuming, and this is an effort to help county agents work faster and more efficiently.
We found out last week that we’ll have $9.6 billion to spend on the FY’22 budget. While this is significantly more than we had originally thought with the ongoing pandemic, over $1 billion is from one-time funds, meaning we won’t have them next year, so they must be spent carefully. We don’t want to overextend the state in future budget years.
This budget certification, however, shows that our state’s economy is strengthening. Oklahoma has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, so our businesses are open and hiring. Hopefully, with so many getting vaccines, we’ll continue to see cases drop further helping our economy to fully re-open and commerce to resume as normal. We were experiencing one of the strongest state economies in the nation before COVID-19 hit, and we’re anxious to get back there.
Nearly 500,000 Oklahomans have received their first vaccine. Unfortunately, the winter weather closed most distribution sites last week, but they’ve now reopened, which is also good news and will help our state greatly. We’ve moved into the next groups for Phase II of inoculations. Teachers and education staff have begun receiving their vaccines along with citizens with comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease and other serious ailments. Together, these two groups include more than one million Oklahomans, so this next step is going to take some time to complete. We must remain patient as we continue through this process.
If you haven’t already, you can register for your vaccine at www.vaccinate.oklahoma.gov and you’ll be notified whether you’re currently eligible to schedule an appointment. If you’re not, you’ll receive an email when your time comes.
The Biden administration approved Oklahoma’s federal disaster declaration so our local, county, tribal and state governments can begin seeking reimbursement for their response efforts to the historic winter storms.
The state will also be seeking further federal assistance for individuals and businesses that sustained damages. To qualify, FEMA must have evidence of substantial widespread damage. Citizens are asked to report all storm damage to damage.ok.gov. Things that can be reported include time without electricity, gas or water and displacement caused by lack of utilities or property damage; flooding or other property damage; damage caused by power surges; and injuries caused by any of the above. The faster this information is submitted, the faster the state can get approved for additional federal assistance.
Lastly, state leaders are working to see what options are available to assist Oklahomans with upcoming utility bills from skyrocketing natural gas prices. They’re researching if the extreme market prices fall under our price gouging law prohibiting product and service prices from increasing more than 10% during a disaster declaration. The legislature will also look at how state revenue might be used to mitigate the costs to consumers.
If you’ve witnessed price gouging, please report it to the AG’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (405) 521-2029.
Thank you again for the privilege of serving our district and the State of Oklahoma in the Senate. If I can be of any assistance, you can reach me at (405) 521-5563 or Chris.Kidd@oksenate.gov.