Another deadline for the books, and this was the busiest by far. We’re six weeks in and around 460 Senate bills made it through committee and received full approval by our chamber. By Thursday’s deadline, the House had passed nearly 500 bills that will now be assigned to our Senate committees as we swap legislation for consideration.

We now have four weeks to go over those House bills in our committees and decide which ones we want to move forward in the process. I’m excited that 10 of my Senate bills made it out of our chamber and will be assigned to their respective House committees for further consideration. Also, nearly 20 of the House bills I’m carrying in the Senate were approved in that chamber and we’ll soon be taking them up in our committees.

Among my Senate bills that passed off the Senate floor was SB 320, which is establishing criteria for who can apply for medical or compassionate parole in our state. Currently, any incarcerated individual can apply for medical parole; this legislation sets clear requirements to ensure those who apply will not be a danger to the public. This bill is seeking to release individuals who are near death or dying and to give those individuals the opportunity to seek proper end-of-life care, such as hospice or long-term care. These services are much less expensive for Oklahoma and is the fiscally conservative approach to providing this type of care for those who qualify. Last year, only 12 inmates were released on medical parole, so although this doesn’t impact a large group of inmates, the savings for our state could be substantial.

After consulting with those in law enforcement, district attorneys, judges, and healthcare professionals, I’m extremely proud of the work we did to collaborate on common-sense legislation that is good, sound policy. I am glad that this bill is moving on to the next step in the process and truly believe it will save the state a great deal of money and free up correctional officers to attend to other prisoners, which may also improve safety.

You can track legislation we’ve been working on at www.oksenate.gov.

On Wednesday, I was honored to join Governor Stitt; Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye; Deputy Commissioner Travis Kirkpatrick; President and CEO of Care Providers Oklahoma, Steve Buck; CEO of Bridges Health, Brett Coble; and others to announce the updated visitation guidelines for long term care (LTC) facilities. Fortunately, with vaccinations increasing daily, along with the precautions Oklahomans have taken in recent months, the cases of COVID-19 have dropped dramatically.

This is exciting news for residents and their families, some of whom have been separated for several months and unable to have physical contact. If you have a loved one living in a long-term care setting, I would encourage you to reach out to the facility for information about their policy and procedures for enhanced visitation for family and friends and to schedule an appointment for visitation. Please also remember that due to CDC and CMS guidelines, not all facilities may be able to follow the announced visitation guidelines that we released on Tuesday. For this reason, it is important to contact each facility to receive instructions for visitation.

There was further encouraging health news this week when the governor announced that we’re moving into Phase 3 of our state vaccination plan, which includes the expanded education and essential worker groups, such as teachers, students 18 and older, residents and administrative staff in educational settings like childcare facilities, colleges, universities, career techs, and lastly, the critical infrastructure personnel: those workers who were deemed essential during the economic shutdown. You can book an appointment for vaccinations by visiting www.vaccinate.oklahoma.gov if you meet any of the descriptions listed in phases one through three.

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.

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