Capitol Update With Senator Bill Coleman, Ponca City
Beverly Cantrell - December 4, 2021 11:13 am
This fall has been extremely busy at the state Capitol. Besides our normal interim studies, attending national conferences, meeting with state agencies, constituents, and other groups, we also had several other things on our plate. The LOFT oversight committee, the Joint Pandemic on Pandemic Relief Funding, the Diabetes Caucus, and other caucuses as well as other special committees have been meeting regularly.
The Legislature was especially focused on completing redistricting, which is the redrawing of Oklahoma’s 101 House districts and 48 Senate districts, along with the five congressional districts. Our Redistricting Committee has been working for over a year, traveling from one side of the state to the other for town hall meetings. These 30 public meetings were streamed online to allow all Oklahomans to participate in this important process. Ideas, questions, and concerns were also accepted online as well as map proposals.
Even with the significant census delays caused by the pandemic, we still were able to conduct the most open and transparent redistricting process in state history. Given that our state’s population grew by more than five percent, we had to figure out how to evenly distribute the nearly 200,000 new citizens. Constitutionally, House and Senate district populations must be within 2.5% of equal representation, while the congressional districts have to be within one person.
As you can imagine this was no easy feat, but our two legislative committees drew up maps based on all of our research and public input. Those maps were then overwhelmingly approved in special session the week before Thanksgiving. The Senate districts grew from having just over 78,000 citizens to more than 82,000 each, while the House districts grew from a little over 37,000 each to just over 39,000. Each congressional district will now represent nearly 792,000 Oklahomans. The new districts will go into effect for the 2022 election cycle.
Senate District 10 will grow by 10% with the greatest change being we’re picking up a sliver of northern Tulsa County around Skiatook. We’ll retain all of Osage County and we’re losing more of the northwest corner of Kay County.
I want to thank everyone who participated in the 2020 Census, which plays a crucial role in your representation at every level of government as well as the distribution of federal funds in your community and throughout the state. It’s also important for our congressional representation. While we maintained our five congressional seats, Texas gained two more, meaning they have a stronger voice in federal matters. The census ensures each citizen has fair representation at the local, state, and federal levels.
It was an honor and pleasure getting to be on the Senate Redistricting Committee, and an experience I’ll never forget. I want to thank everyone who attended the public town hall meetings in and around our district or submitted your ideas and thoughts online or to my office. We are a government by the people, so I applaud you for taking action and letting your voice be heard.
Our attention will now be focused on getting our bill requests in by the Friday, Dec. 10 deadline. Now is the time to share any concerns you have with current law or ideas for new legislation. Once all those requests are in, our legislative staff has until Thursday, Jan. 20 to file them for consideration in the 2022 session. Being the Second Session of the 58th Legislature, any bills not acted on last session will also carry-over and have another opportunity to get through the legislative process.
If you have any questions about legislative matters, please don’t hesitate to contact my office. I can be reached by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected]