Senate Review by Senator Roland Pederson
Mike Seals - May 29, 2020 4:46 pm
Sen. Roland Pederson
As of May 29, we have officially concluded the Second Session of the 57th Legislature. This session was historic—after the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread across the state, we were flexible and transitioned to a blend of both in-person and virtual meetings to complete our business. Although our time at the Capitol was cut short, I’m still proud of the progress we made in key areas like education and health care to move our state forward.
As I’ve shared before, we passed a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for our retired state employees including teachers, police officers and firefighters. This is the first adjustment they’ve received in 12 years, while inflation has risen nearly 20 percent in this time. This COLA is well deserved, and I’m glad we were able to get it across the finish line.
We also passed a measure requiring schools to perform dyslexia screening for early elementary school children not reading on grade level. Early intervention is the easiest way to make sure our dyslexic students succeed, so I’m glad this will be implemented in our schools.
When it comes to health care, we passed the Medical Care Provider Protection Act, which takes additional steps to strengthen and protect health care workers from workplace violence. Our nurses, doctors and other health care workers are true heroes, and we must do everything we can to protect them on the job.
We also approved Shepherd’s Law, which creates a midwife licensure for the first time in state history. Previously, Oklahoma was one of only a few states that didn’t require a midwife to have a license. This measure still allows women the right to choose how they want to give birth, but gives them more information when choosing a midwife and strengthens oversight and accountability for those who perform home births.
As some of you might’ve heard, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) is undergoing some major changes. They’ve consolidated their IT services under the direction of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) and have hired an interim director after their director stepped down last week.
More than 475,000 Oklahomans have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic, and more than 62,000 self-employed individuals, gig workers and independent contractors have applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Needless to say, the OESC has been backlogged and was not set-up to handle this large volume in a short time period. Their systems have been overwhelmed, which has led to extremely long wait times for some seeking benefits. The OESC says they have paid nearly 80 percent of claims, but still have a backlog of more than 40,000 claims to process.
My office will continue to help those across the district seeking unemployment benefits. If you are having issues with your claim, please contact me at [email protected] or by calling 405-521-5630. I cannot promise an immediate answer, but we will do all we can to ensure your claim doesn’t get lost in the pile.
Thank you for allowing me to be your voice at the State Capitol. It’s a true pleasure to serve.