Legislative Update With Senator Bill Coleman
Ponca City Now - March 28, 2023 7:02 am
Sen. Bill Coleman, Ponca City and Sen. Kevin Matthews of Tulsa.
Last week, we crossed yet another legislative hurdle as we finished work on Senate bills in our chamber. After reviewing hundreds of bills in recent weeks, we ended up approving a total of 400 measures and sending them on to the House where their committee will now take them up. I’m so pleased that 23 of my bills moved forward, along with three more I’m co-authoring.
One of the bills I’m co-authoring, Senate Bill 509, is an incredibly important measure that I’m so proud to be carrying with Sen. Kevin Matthews of Tulsa, Rep. Jason Lowe of Oklahoma City, and Rep. Ken Luttrell of Ponca City to create the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail. This will connect our state’s remaining all-Black towns and locations significant to the civil rights movement, including many Native American sites of historical significance. You may not know this, but Oklahoma originally had more than 50 Black towns, and we now have 13 remaining.
I’m thrilled that this trail will begin right here in Senate District 10 at Standing Bear Park, Museum and Education Center in Ponca City, then proceed to the site of the 1920s “Osage Reign of Terror,” in Fairfax. It will then continue through the state’s all Black communities, including Boley; Brooksville; Clearview; Grayson; Langston; Lima; Red Bird; Rentiesville; Summit; Taft; Tatums; Tullahassee; and Vernon. The trail will then move to Tulsa’s Greenwood Rising and the Pathway to Hope before ending at the Clara Luper Center that will be constructed in Oklahoma City.
It’s so important that we never forget our history, however tragic, but instead shine a light on it so that our society never repeats our mistakes. Having a Civil Rights Trail will give us the opportunity to join the world and our fellow Oklahomans in celebrating those African American and Native American courageous heroes whose fearless persistence and bravery forever changed our state and nation. This trail will show both the tragedies and triumphs throughout our state’s history, all of which make up the fabric of Oklahoma’s diverse and inspiring heritage.
SB 509 will create a grant program to help fund the trail’s development, as well as other important sites along the way. The Oklahoma Historical Society will manage the program’s revolving fund, which will collect all state and federal funds, along with any additional gifts and donations for the project. This bill passed through the Senate unanimously and I’m confident it will move through the House just as quickly. It will become law as soon as the governor signs it, and we can get to work developing this tremendous trail that will be such a boon for tourism and economic development in these communities, while also helping spur and support local entrepreneurs.