Mike Seals - July 26, 2021 10:47 pm
By Sen. Bill Coleman
Continuing our discussion from last week, something else legislators and legislative staff take part in during the interim are educational conferences. These are hosted in states around the country and focus on specific timely issues that states are facing.
This past week, I joined several of my legislative colleagues in Nashville for the 75th Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) Annual Meeting. SLC is the nation’s largest regional gathering of state legislators, legislative staff and government officials representing 15 states. This annual meeting provides policymakers an opportunity for engaging regional and national policy experts about the most critical and relevant state government policy issues facing the southern region.
This year, topics included how state governments are operating under COVID-19, cybersecurity of unemployment claims, rural broadband access, improving and expanding infrastructure in the south, COVID and school governance, federal energy changes, COVID’s impact on the energy sector, public pension reforms, the impacts of juvenile records on future education and employment opportunities, human trafficking, and security of America’s energy grid. This was a great learning experience, and I was glad to get to share how we’ve addressed some of these issues in Oklahoma.
Several legislators and staffers from our state attended to also help recruit attendees to come to Oklahoma next year when we host the SLC Conference at the new convention center in Oklahoma City. This is an exciting opportunity for our state.
I also recently had the privilege of being the only Oklahoma legislator to serve in the Emerging Leaders Program of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. I was so honored that Pro Tem Treat appointed me for this very informative program that is held every July on the campus of the University of Virginia, in partnership with the distinguished Darden School of Business. The program, which I attended virtually, includes up to 50 legislators from around the country who participate in 3-4 days of challenging classroom discussions, led by a team of professors at the Darden School. This unique learning opportunity helps broaden the perspectives of participants to help them be better able to tackle the most difficult issues of the time. Interestingly enough, a lot of our discussions had to do with how similar each state legislature operates and how common the problems and challenges are that we face regardless of what state we’re from.
Work is underway for congressional redistricting. Just like we did for state legislative redistricting, our redistricting committee is holding numerous public meetings around the state to help educate citizens on the process as well as answer their questions and listen to their concerns and suggestions. The meeting in our congressional district was held last week in Tulsa. However, there will be another virtual meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. You can join at https://www.okhouse.gov/Publications/VirtualMeets.aspx. If you aren’t able to join at that time, feel free to submit your questions, concerns and comments at [email protected].
Unlike the legislative districts, we have to use the U.S. Census Bureau’s final population numbers rather than their estimates. The states are supposed to get those final counts sometime next month. We’ll then have to convene in special session in mid-October to vote on the new congressional districts.
Interim studies will also be starting in the next few weeks. The House approved just over 100 studies while the Senate will be conducting around 70. You might want to look over the approved lists to see if any of the topics are of interest to you. These are public meetings that can be viewed live on the House and Senate websites. Schedules and presentations will also be available online.
Thank you again for the privilege of being your voice at the Capitol. As always, I look forward to hearing from you with any questions, comments or concerns you have about legislative matters. You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected]