Legislative Update With Senator Bill Coleman

Senator Bill Coleman-Ponca City-District 10 - February 3, 2023 12:24 pm

Oklahoma Senator Bill Coleman R-Ponca City District 10

An update from last week. Session will get underway Monday —

Our first major deadline is now in the books as all the bills for session have been officially filed. I ended up filing more than 20 measures, including SJR 11 to allow Oklahoma voters to decide whether the Legislature should have the power to enact or amend statutes relating to sex offenders if such provisions are rationally related to protecting the public from sex-based crimes. This would include such things as sex offender registration requirements, the duration of those requirements, and proximity to areas frequented by vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and mentally disabled. Under this proposed state question, if approved, sex offenders would have to comply with any such enactments or amendments after implemented. Any subsequent changes regulating residence of a sex offender would be applicable when the individual moved.
There is major debate over whether sex offenders only have to abide by the laws that were in place when they were convicted or if they need to abide by all future enacted laws. We’ll let the people of Oklahoma decide which it should be.
In recent weeks, our Senate appropriations subcommittees have been holding budget hearings with their agencies to get their FY’24 requests. On Wednesday, our newly created Appropriations Subcommittee on OMES/ARPA Oversight held our first meeting. We were briefed on the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that Oklahoma received and the process the Legislature went through to allocate those funds, which could be used by governments to respond to the public health and economic emergency, provide premium pay to essential workers, replace revenue lost due to the pandemic, and make necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
Oklahoma received a total of $3.19 billion in ARPA funds for state and local governments. Of that amount $1.32 billion was given to Oklahoma counties, cities, and local communities while the Legislature was responsible for spending the state government’s $1.87 billion portion. We were very meticulous in deciding how to best use these funds and created the bipartisan, bicameral Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding that spent over a year going through more than 1,400 public project proposals, totaling $18 billion. They also met with local government, tribal members, higher education, state agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and others. Major work went into deciding what Oklahoma’s greatest needs are and what projects will best serve the state for decades to come. Our committee will now provide continued oversight to ensure that those critical federal funds are spent how the Legislature planned.
For the first time since its creation in 2012, the Senate will have financial oversight of what has become our largest state agency. It provides technical and other support to most of our executive agencies. Given its annual budget of $147 million, it’s imperative we ensure they’re using taxpayer funds efficiently too.
We also heard from Service Oklahoma, the state’s new agency that is modernizing and standardizing all services offered at tag agencies, especially getting or renewing driver licenses or REAL IDs. During the pandemic, we quickly learned that the outdated system for driver licenses, tags, and other such services could not keep up with the needs of citizens. Under this new system, all tag agencies provide the same services and are open the same hours to ensure no matter where you are in the state, you can go by any tag agency and get the help you need. Many of those services are now online as well.
I’m excited about this new committee and watching our ARPA funds transform communities and our state overall, as well as learning more about the good work happening at OMES.

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