Although the Legislature only meets in regular session for four months each year, convening in February and adjourning in May, work continues throughout the interim, which is the period between the end of one session and the beginning of the next.
Throughout the month of July and into early August, members of the Senate and the House will be hosting a series of town hall and virtual meetings to give members of the public an opportunity to ask questions or make comments as legislators prepare to redraw the boundaries for Oklahoma’s five congressional districts to account for population changes. Each district must contain the same population count and can only vary by a single person. If you are interested in attending a town hall meeting or viewing one online, go to https://oksenate.gov/redistricting. If you have any questions or comments about the congressional districts, you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
After we’ve received input from the public and analyzed the final U.S. Census numbers, which should be in August, members will begin working on the new congressional district maps. We’ll return to the Capitol for a special session in October to vote on the new boundaries.
The interim also gives us the opportunity to do deep dives into other important issues in meetings referred to as interim studies. During the legislative session, our committee work is focused on discussing and debating literally thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed in each chamber, and there simply is not adequate time to conduct in-depth hearings on complex topics.
This year, 71 interim studies were approved by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat. The studies are assigned to the committee that has jurisdiction over the area to be studied, and then it is up to the chairs of those committees to decide if and when that meeting will be scheduled. Overwhelmingly, most do get a hearing. The requests this year cover a wide range of topics, from post-Covid’s effects on learning outcomes to possible solutions to the impact of medical marijuana farming on municipal and rural water systems. Some of these meetings may simply be informational, while others may result in legislation, which will be heard during the 2022 legislative session.
I received approval for an interim study on PACE licensing requirements. PACE programs offer all-inclusive care for the elderly, with the aim of helping adults with long-term care needs live as freely as possible, helping participants live outside of a nursing home or other care facility through a comprehensive continuum of care for an individual’s particular needs. I requested this study to look at the current licensing requirements and how we can ensure those regulations fit with this specialized type of care.
In addition to interim studies, the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) holds meetings throughout the year with the next slated for July 21 at the state Capitol. LOFT is a bipartisan, bicameral watchdog agency that conducts in-depth studies of how taxpayer dollars are being used by various agencies and programs, and whether we’re getting the best bang for our buck.
To find out more about our LOFT meetings, interim studies, or other committee work that may take place at any point in the year, please visit the Senate’s official website at www.oksenate.gov and go to meeting notices under the “committees” tab.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I also attended a recent hearing called to gather more information on the Department of Corrections’ decision to close the William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply. Members were very concerned that the decision was made without their input or any prior briefing, and there are also concerns about how the closure will impact the local economy. Corrections officials acknowledged there should have been better communications on their part. Questions still remain on what the net savings will actually be versus the cost to taxpayers and about the impact this move will have.
Finally, the Research Institute for Economic Development (RIED) has released its legislative scorecard for the just-ended 2021 Legislative Session. Lawmakers received scores based on their support of legislation aimed at creating jobs and growing Oklahoma’s economy. I received a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2021 RIED Report and will continue to support legislation to promote economic development and help our citizens and our state to prosper.
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.