A Full November Schedule
Mike Seals - November 13, 2020 9:47 am
By Sen. Bill Coleman
November has already been a busy month in state and federal government. It started with elections at all levels of state government. Citizens voted for who they want to represent them at the city, county, state and federal levels.
Oklahomans also voted on two state questions, both of which failed. Unfortunately, one would have provided the legislature the funds needed to pay for the expansion of Medicaid that voters approved last summer. It’s estimated that the Medicaid expansion will cost the state anywhere from $164 million to $237 million. This will be a new expense that we will be tasked with finding funding for this coming session. But that is going to be a difficult task as continued low energy prices combined with the pandemic’s impact on state revenues, we’re looking at a possible $1 billion revenue hole plus the cost of the Medicaid expansion.
Again, unlike the federal government we are bound by our state constitution to only appropriate what revenue is brought in each year. It’s going to be another tough year to balance the budget.
On Nov. 1, more than 60 new laws went into effect. One that I’m extremely pleased with is House Bill 3251, which adds domestic abuse by strangulation, domestic assault with a dangerous weapon, domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and domestic assault and battery with a deadly weapon to the violent crimes list.
Domestic violence is a serious issue in Oklahoma. Oklahoma ranks 6th nationally for the highest rate of physical intimate partner violence in the nation. Sadly, 49% of women and 40% of men have experienced intimate partner violence at some time in their lives. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there are more than 21,000 calls made every 15 minutes to domestic violence hotlines in our state every 15 minutes.
This important bill will ensure that the punishment of these individuals meets their horrible crimes. They will no longer be eligible for certain kinds of early release or for electronic monitoring programs. Prior to this bill becoming law, Oklahoma was one of only around 26 states that treated domestic violence as a nonviolent offense.
This is a step in the right direction to better protect victims, hold offenders accountable and improve public safety. If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, please call 2-1-1 to find help in your area.
The House held their swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday in the Capitol rotunda. Seven new Senators along with several returning members will be sworn in on Monday in the Senate Chamber. Due to ongoing renovations, the ceremony will not be broadcast online.
On Nov. 15, we can officially start filing bills for the 1st Session of the 58th Legislature. If you have any ideas or suggestions for new legislation or changes to existing law, please let me know. All bill requests must be made by Friday, Dec. 11.
I’ve been logging lots of miles recently around the district and driving to the Capitol. I got to attend the regional meeting of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association in Bartlesville. While we produce a lot of beef in Oklahoma, we seldom process it. Most of our cattle are sent out of state to packing plants. It would be beneficial to our agriculture industry and our state’s economy if we could have Oklahoma grown and processed beef.
We also recently had our last Rules Committee meeting for the upcoming session. These will be announced on Organizational Day, which will be Tuesday, Jan. 5. The rules will be approved along with leadership positions and other house keeping matters.
The Senate Republican Caucus Retreat will also be this coming week. We will finalize our caucus agenda, which will include what issues we want to focus on this session.
In closing, I want to congratulate and thank everyone who exercised their greatest freedom by voting in this month’s elections. Regardless of who or what you voted for, you let your voice be heard and for that you are to be applauded. Oklahoma set a record for the number of registrations as well as number of votes cast. As we move forward, let’s keep this same amount of vigor when it comes to voting in school board, city council and other local elections. These are just as important, if not more important given they have a stronger impact on your daily life, than presidential races.
You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected]