Legislative Update With Senator Bill Coleman

Ponca City Now - June 9, 2023 3:42 pm

Senator Bill Coleman

While this session certainly had its challenges, ultimately, we completed the most important task of the Legislature, which is to write and pass a balanced budget, and we approved a great many important policy measures to move our state forward in public safety, health, and other critical areas. Overall, nine of my Senate bills were signed into law, along with six of my House bills.
One of these measures tackles the growing problem of underage tobacco use. Starting November 1, HB 2165 will require an individual under the age of 21 who purchases, receives, or possesses a tobacco, nicotine, or vapor product or attempts to purchase any of these products using a fake I.D. to complete a court-approved education or tobacco use cessation program. If the court-ordered program isn’t complete, the individual may be charged with up to a $50 fine and up to a $100 fine for subsequent offenses. The violator may also be required to complete a community service program or other appropriate programs or services as the court orders. To ensure all programs and court orders are followed, the court will have jurisdiction over the individual for 12 months. The bill further authorizes cities and towns to enact and municipal police departments to enforce ordinances that prohibit and penalize conduct that violates this law.
If we don’t get the underage tobacco use under control, it’s estimated that 88,000 Oklahoma kids currently under the age of 18 will ultimately die prematurely from smoking. Every year, around 1,300 Oklahoma minors become new daily smokers, and 25% of high schoolers report having vaped in the last month. We must fight to protect our youth.
I’m also thrilled to announce that the governor on Thursday also signed SB 509, which I co-authored and presented in the Senate, to create the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail. This will connect our state’s remaining all-Black towns and historical civil rights locations, including many Native American sites of historical significance. Oklahoma originally had more than 50 Black towns, and we now have 13 remaining. These are treasures we must protect and share with the world. I’m proud to be working with Rep. Ken Luttrell of Ponca City, who is also a co-author, and the principal authors, Sen. Kevin Matthews of Tulsa and Rep. Jason Lowe of Oklahoma City.
While it wasn’t always easy, it turned out to be a productive session. I enjoyed having the opportunity to chair the Senate Business and Commerce Committee and help in leading our caucus this session as an assistant whip. While my plate was already full with my Public Safety vice chairmanship and serving as a presiding officer, I enjoy a challenge and learning new things. It was an honor to help lead the Senate through this tumultuous session and learn more about the specific goals of my Senate colleagues and their districts. We accomplished great things for Oklahoma and I’m going to be discussing those in the coming weeks.

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