New laws and budget

Ponca City Now - July 18, 2019 4:22 pm

By Sen. Bill Coleman

July brought with it new laws and a new state budget. To rehash what happened this session:

  • Common education (K-12) got $157 million in new funding to put into the classroom, lower classes sizes, fully fund the Reading Sufficiency Act, expand Career Tech education attainment programs, provide healthcare benefits and give teachers a second pay raise (avg. of $1,220 bringing Oklahoma to first in the region for teacher pay)
  • Higher education received just over $25 million for staff pay raises and research programs
  • Public Safety got nearly $90 million in new funding to provide an average $4,000 pay raise for Corrections officers, correctional facility upgrades, create a new trooper academy, and build a new Medical Examiner’s office in Tulsa
  • $200 million into state savings to bring total to $1 billion
  • Up to $1,400 pay raises for state employees
  • Creation of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) to provide more in depth, independent data to lawmakers and the public on state agency budgets and program performance
  • Over $16 million invested for digital transformation of state government services to improve transparency and customer services at agencies
  • Criminal Justice – more than $33 million investment to reform funding of the District Attorney offices, for “Smart on Crime” and Women in Recovery programs as well as to expand drug court option for nonviolent offenders
  • Healthcare funding included nearly $63 million for the Graduate Medical Education program to train physicians especially for rural areas; $105 million to increase provider rates for physicians, hospitals and nursing homes; $29 million to create the Medicaid preservation fund; $2 million to decrease the Developmental Disability Services (DDSD) wait list; $8 million to increase DDSD provider reimbursement rates by 4 percent; and near $5 million to increase immunizations and staff at county health departments
  • Rural Oklahoma – $500,000 for public-private partnership to protect water in northeast Oklahoma; over $1 million for wildfire mitigation and rural fire fighters; and $1.5 million to improve rural flood control dams.

Besides agencies getting their new budgets, we also had 86 new laws go into effect.  I’ll talk about these in the coming months.

I have been going nonstop since session adjourned traveling around the district for various meetings as well as at the Capitol. I’ve spoken with several Chambers of Commerce including in Ponca City, Tonkawa and Barnsdall as well as to Newkirk Main Street and the Osage County Republican Party.

My office has been working tirelessly to help as many people as possible with issues they’re facing after the flooding.

Last month, I attended a ceremony honoring some World War II Veterans who were present as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of D-Day.  It was an honor getting to meet them and be able to thank them in person for their service.

Gov. Stitt was in Ponca City last month for a couple of events.  I got to interview him live on the radio, which was a real treat for me.  We had a good time talking about what was accomplished during session and about the work that still needs to be done.

As the summer starts to wind down, I’ll be at the Capitol more. June and July is typically when legislators return to their districts to meet with constituents and hear their thoughts and ideas for upcoming legislation as well as changes that may need to be made. I can’t tell you how crucial this is for the work we do.

The bill filing deadline is in December.  If you have ideas or concerns, it’s imperative that you contact me this summer or fall so we have plenty of time to discuss and research those issues before that winter deadline. Bills can’t be requested and filed after that December deadline.

I look forward to hearing and meeting with as many of you as possible in the coming months.  If you have an organization or group that would like me to come speak with, please contact my office and my assistant Cindy will work with you to get that set up.

You can contact me at the state Capitol by calling (405) 521-5581 or by email at [email protected]


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