Another Deadline Week

Mike Seals - April 8, 2021 10:57 am

By Sen. Bill Coleman

 

This past week, we completed committee work on House bills. We successfully got through more than half of the remaining House bills, and the next two weeks will be fast paced as we have until April 22 to get through more than 300 House bills on the Senate floor agenda.

I’m pleased to say that 13 of my 17 House bills were approved in Senate committees and will be heard on the floor in the next couple of weeks. Seven of my Senate bills were approved in House committees and will be considered by that chamber as well. Any bills not heard by the deadline are done for this session and will have to be revisited next session.

I’m especially excited about HB 2365 as we work to become a Top Ten 10 state in business. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we want to do all we can to support them. This measure will create the Oklahoma Supplier Diversity Initiative to allow certain businesses and registered vendors to be automatically notified of opportunities to do business with the state. State agencies would be able to obtain three bids from qualifying businesses for select purchases of up to $500,000. A qualifying business would have to have less than 500 total employees, annual revenue of $25 million or less, and certified as one of several business categories including:

  • Oklahoma Department of Transportation Disadvantaged Business Enterprise;
  • Woman-Owned Small Business;
  • Minority-Business Enterprise;
  • Small Disadvantaged Business;
  • Service-disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business;
  • 8(a) Business Development Program;
  • Native American-owned Business;
  • Veteran-owned Business; or
  • HUBZone Small Business Concern or a business related in certain ways to a HUBZone or Qualified Opportunity Zone.

Each decade following the U.S. Census, state legislatures are constitutionally required to redraw their state legislative and congressional districts. The point of redistricting is to ensure boundaries adhere to the “one person, one vote” concept, so legally we have to ensure that each district has essentially the same number of citizens. Over the past decade, Oklahoma’s population has changed a lot. Not only has it increased but people have moved throughout the state so we must modify the districts in order to ensure equal representation.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic caused delays in census data gathering, which in turn has delayed the redistricting process. The Census Bureau says population counts will be available later this year. While we wait for official data, our redistricting committee will get a head start by using population estimates from the 2014-2019 American Community Survey data, which is also collected by the Census Bureau and will provide helpful guidance. Once the updated census numbers are received, we’ll meet in special session to make any necessary adjustments as well as complete work on congressional districts.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done this year on redistricting. From what I gather, this has been the most transparent, inclusive redistricting process in our state’s history. Our committee has held over 20 meetings around the state, virtual and in-person, in order to hear public input and discuss numerous ideas about how best to proceed with redistricting.

Another constitutional duty of the Senate is confirming the governor’s appointments to his cabinet and various state boards and commissions.  Several nominations have been approved in Senate committees the last two weeks with more to come. On Thursday, I was so proud to carry the nomination of my predecessor, former Senator Eddie Fields of Wynona, to the Oklahoma Mining Commission. He will succeed Jed Winters and serve a seven-year term to end January 1, 2028. Senator Fields’ nomination was unanimously approved by the Energy Committee and will next be heard by the full Senate.

With only seven more weeks left of session, we have a lot more work to get accomplished. The next two weeks are going to be crazy as we work hard to hear the hundreds of House bills before us.  These are important issues to the people of Oklahoma and we’re anxious to get as many as possible to the governor’s desk.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected]

 

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