Mike Seals - May 6, 2021 10:22 pm
By Sen. Bill Coleman
More than 400 bills have already been signed into law, and this week I’d like to tell you about some of the more interesting ones.
Voting is one of our greatest rights as Americans but having a good understanding of what you’re voting on can be tricky sometimes. This is especially true with state questions that often have confusing language coupled with conflicting commercials on why citizens should vote for or against a measure. This can be especially frustrating when voters learn after the fact that a measure has substantial costs associated with it that will fall back on them.
To improve fiscal transparency, legislation was signed requiring all future state question ballot titles to include any costs that could result from their approval. Possible funding sources must be included as well as like federal or state revenue. If state funding might be required, would it come from a new tax, increasing an existing tax, or cutting existing state programs? Too often people are unaware of the tremendous costs associated with the outcomes of state questions and don’t realize they’ll have to pay for it one way or another. This will ensure they have this financial information upfront as they decide how to vote.
Another criminal justice reform is also now on the books. Legislation was signed authorizing the District Attorneys Council to develop and administer a 5-year restorative justice pilot program utilizing citizen-led mediation panels. Restorative justice is as an alternative means to the traditional criminal justice model for qualifying nonviolent offenses. The program will work on offender rehabilitation through reconciliation with the victims and communities. Similar programs around the country have proven quite successful. They allow offenders to get the treatment and help they need while making restitution to their victims without serving lengthy sentences. This helps them become productive citizens, reduces recidivism, and helps further lower our overcrowded prison population. The pilot program will run through November 1, 2026.
The Universal Licensing Recognition Act was also signed into law. Under this change, the education, training, and skills required and earned in another state will be recognized in Oklahoma. The applicant must show they are free of any complaint, investigation, suspension, revocation or discipline by any other regulatory entity or jurisdiction for unprofessional conduct. This is a major economic development reform that will further improve the mobility of professional and occupational licensing across state lines. It will help attract qualified professionals to our state while continuing to protect the health and safety of Oklahomans.
In closing, besides working on finalizing bill language, redistricting and budget work, we’re also considering the governor’s many executive nominations. Last week, I had the privilege of carrying the governor’s executive nominations of Tracie Smith to the Board of Trustees for the University Center at Ponca City and Gary Miles to the Oklahoma Veterans Commission to serve as one of the Vietnam War representatives. Both of these outstanding Ponca City residents were approved by the full Senate. Tracie will serve a nine-year term expiring June 30, 2030, and Gary will serve a three-year term expiring July 1, 2024.
On Thursday morning, I also presented the nomination of Rex Koller of Sand Springs to the Oklahoma Abstractors Board before the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee. If approved by the full Senate, he’ll serve a four-year term ending July 1, 2025.
Thank you for again for allowing me to be your voice at the Capitol. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I will continue to update you on what’s happening as we move through these final weeks.
You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected]