Almost halfway there

Mike Seals - March 18, 2021 12:09 pm

By Sen. Bill Coleman

 

We’re into the 7th week of session and quickly approaching the halfway mark. This week, the nearly 420 House bills that were sent over to the Senate by last Thursday’s deadline are still being assigned to committee. We’ll spend the next three weeks debating those measures in our committees.

I’d like to discuss some more of the great bills working their way through the process, specifically some family and election-related measures.

The first bill is SB 647, Lily’s Law, which was created to help ensure families are given their children’s remains, if they want them, to bury following miscarriages. Many grieving parents who lose their children in the first trimester aren’t given the choice to ask for their child’s remains for a proper burial. Instead, the remains are discarded as medical waste by most facilities. Lily’s Law defines fetal death and stillbirth and subjects birthing centers and medical facilities to the same requirement to maintain a written policy for the disposition of a child’s remains from a stillbirth or fetal death event as licensed hospitals. Around 80% of pregnancy losses occur within the first trimester, so this will help those families who suffer a loss from miscarriage properly honor the life of their child as they see fit.

Another bill we approved will help prohibit discrimination against a potential organ transplant recipient. SB 378, or Everett’s Law, was created after a family found out their three-year-old child, Everett, could be denied a lifesaving transplant solely because he has Down Syndrome. This would prohibit any entity from denying an individual an anatomical gift strictly because of the individual’s disability. This bill also requires that a mentally or physically disabled person cannot be placed lower on an organ transplant waiting list or refused service.

We also approved Senate Resolution 9 urging Congress to vote against H.R. 1— a federal overreach of states’ rights to oversee their elections. Oklahoma has a history of secure and efficient elections, and I worry H.R. 1 could be a threat to the integrity of Oklahoma’s election system and other states. While many states had issues with their elections last November, Oklahoma wasn’t one of them. We had our votes tallied on election night, while other states took days to complete their counts, putting their accuracy into question. If anything, other states need to use Oklahoma’s system as a blueprint for their own. With our resolution, which will be sent to leaders in the U.S. House and Senate as well as our congressional delegation, hopefully the U.S. Senate will see how seriously we take this threat to our electoral system and will vote against it.

Speaking of elections, we’ve passed several voting reforms to improve participation, including SB 962 aimed at increasing voter turnout for school board elections. Currently, participation is extremely low in these elections, which is concerning because the successful education of future generations falls into the school board’s hands, so they should be chosen thoughtfully, not by only a handful of voters. School board elections are one of the most important elections local citizens can vote in given that it impacts how their local schools are run, the education their kids receive and how their local tax dollars are utilized.

Under this bill, the general election for school board members would be held on the same days as primary and general elections for county, state, and federal offices rather than on a different date as it is now. If approved, this will help dramatically increase voter turnout for these important local elections.

I’ll keep you posted as these continue working their way through the process.

In closing, this week I attended the Oklahoma Youth Expo at the State Fairgrounds and had the pleasure of showing Ponca City 4-H student Ty Otto’s sheep, Mario. This was such a great experience, and I want to thank him for showing me the ropes. Congratulations to all the participants and winners.

Of course, if you have any questions you can always contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected].

 

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