First week overview
Ponca City Now - February 7, 2020 1:23 pm
By Sen. Bill Coleman
The Senate and House kicked off session by convening in our chambers Monday morning. We voted on a few housekeeping matters like the session rules and leadership positions. Then we held a joint session in the House Chamber where Gov. Stitt gave his second State of the State Address.
The governor has another year of experience under his belt, and I thought it really showed in his delivery. He is a man with a plan. He doesn’t just throw ideas out and hope something sticks. Since getting into office, he has presented ideas with specific plans of how to achieve his goals. It’s been refreshing to see how he has taken his business practices and work ethic and brought it to the Capitol.
The governor wants to continue with last year’s momentum and save another $100 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. He also urged the Legislature to pass a bill to allow citizens to vote on increasing the Constitutional cap on the fund to 30 percent to allow more money to be saved. This is all an effort to stop our state from suffering so badly financially when our largest source of revenue, the energy sector, falls.
Gov. Stitt wants to cut the bureaucracy and make state services more efficient, which he started last year. The Pardon and Parole Board and the Department of Corrections consolidated their investigators. They fulfilled the largest commutation docket in history without any new staff or funding.
This year, he wants the Legislature to protect the Constitutional mandate for Pardon and Parole Board appointments and approve legislation for Corrections to absorb the remainder of the operations. He also wants to consolidate all the health-related agencies into one organization as well as the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) with Homeland Security to streamline and improve services.
Consolidation definitely piques my interest. We do have unnecessary duplication of services in some areas, and we need to take a long serious look at our over 500 agencies, boards, and commissions and find a more efficient way to serve the people of Oklahoma.
He also wants to reform how state employees are compensated and rewarded by making all employees unclassified and allowing agencies to offer bonuses to reward those who go above and beyond.
Stitt announced his SoonerCare 2.0 plan to completely reform Oklahoma’s Medicaid system in conjunction with the federal government’s new Healthy Adult Opportunity (HAO) program. Oklahoma will be submitting a State Plan Amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) along with applications for the new HAO waivers, which will give the state greater flexibility in utilizing more than $1.1 billion in additional federal Medicaid funds. This plan will help lower the number of uninsured in Oklahoma by covering an additional 180,000 Oklahomans while establishing programs and improving access to high quality healthcare around the state, especially in rural areas. The plan will seek to establish moderate premiums and work requirements. This would ensure that customers have some skin in the game, so to speak. It will encourage able-bodied adults to transition towards employment and independence as well as learning the responsibility of maintaining private insurance for themselves and their families. SoonerCare 2.0 will also expand targeted treatment for opioid addiction and substance abuse. I’m confident we can pass meaningful legislation for Medicaid expansion this session.
Stitt also wants to reallocate some of the future TSET funds to improve delivery of healthcare in rural Oklahoma. The trust currently has more than $1 billion.
As for education, he wants to reform the State Funding Formula, allow voters to unlock more local dollars for their schools and address any mechanism that are preventing tax dollars from getting directly to their classrooms. In order to improve teacher recruitment, he wants the Legislature to approve the recognition of all out-of-state teaching certificates. He also wants to raise the cap on the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship and launch the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program.
His budget also calls for increasing the Closing Fund by $3 million and investing another $200 million in Oklahoma rural roads and high-volume interchanges.
Cutting through bureaucratic red tape is also a high priority for the governor. He made an executive order for the first-ever comprehensive review of the state’s administrative code, which is twice the size of Kansas’. The order also calls for state agencies to remove two regulations for every new one created. As a businessman, he realizes that you don’t grow the economy by strangling businesses with regulations. I see often as a business owner how the government can interfere with prosperity and am glad I can be a part of the solution of burdensome regulations.
He also wants the Legislature to approve universal licensing recognition to help military members and others who move to Oklahoma.
You can contact me at the state Capitol by calling (405) 521-5581 or by email at [email protected]
MAKE IT COUNT OKLAHOMA! Census Day is April 1 and Oklahoma needs a full count. An undercount in the census of just 2 percent can cost the state $1.8 billion in lost federal money over the next 10 years. Fill out your census form, Oklahoma. Learn more at: www.2020census.gov.