Legislators Sent Home
March 26, 2020
Here we are smack-dab in the middle of a legislative session and our legislators are sent home.
The Capitol is currently closed to all legislators and staff until further notice, partly because one state senator and one staffer have tested positive for COVID-19.
But the work goes on.
“My executive assistant was requested last week to take the Senate computer home and is forwarding to me all work that requires my personal attention,” said Sen. Ron Sharp (R-17).” Following normal procedure, a constituent’s email request for assistance can be forwarded to the proper agency for a response. Although with limited staffing, federal and state agencies have been on task in providing responses in a timely manner.”
Before adjourning, Sharp said, the House “enacted rules for that chamber to use remote proxy floor voting. Under their rules only a few Representatives will be required on the floor who can vote for others upon each Representative’s phonein direction.
“As of this date, the Senate has not approved remote proxy floor voting. I anticipate the Senate will approve rules for an alternative to in-person voting on the floor,” he said. “Whatever is decided, it will require the Attorney General’s approval for all alternative voting methods. This is necessary to assure compliance to the Open RecordsOpen Meetings Acts.”
Sharp said the Senate did amend its rules to allow committees to use teleconferencing and subsequent voting.
But the Legislature is constitutionally required to approve a balanced budget. “It is apparent there will be priority to budget bills and most policy bills will be shelved this session,” Sharp said. “It is probable only those policy bills that are considered imperative to the public’s wellbeing and safety will be allowed to proceed.”
The Shawnee senator said emails, texts, and Facebook messaging have been increasing “from constituents wanting health and safety concerns to be the priority of the legislature.
The email advice suggested, “Adjourn as soon as the budget is approved!”
“Constituents have been expressing concern for the future of their children and/or grandchildren in a world of which they now view as uncertain,” Sharp said. “An increasing number of constituent emails have been more direct in expressing the concern for the potential collapse of our nation’s economy unless businesses are allowed to reopen very soon. Constituents realize that shutting down the world’s Number 1 economy will have its consequences.
“Most constituents’ emails are just wanting comforting words of assurance and encouragement from their Senator that we will make it through this crisis,” Sharp said. “I am honored to have had constituents contacting me expressing their confidence and support. You can not imagine just how much I have appreciated their kind words and prayers to our Heavenly Father to provide His divine wisdom to me!”
Sharp said he is working with school superintendents “in regard to enacting legislation that would allow paying the hourly salaries of support personnel” and seeking direction in providing (IDEA) Special Needs students’ modification requirements that must be adapted for Distance
City mayors “are concerned about business closures and its effect on general tax revenue collections. Unless properly managed, this will have an economic impact on cities providing essential services. Most cities rely nearly 100% on the general sales tax.
“The federal and state governments will be required to help our cities recover from this economic loss,” Sharp said. “This may take years for cities to fully recover from this shortfall. Short term fixes will not provide the necessary remedies to provide relief to the cities.
“There are some lessons of history that we can learn as to what to do, and not what to do in an economic crisis,” Sharp said. “While it is anticipated the state will experience a revenue shortfall this year and possibly the next, fortunately we have a healthy Rainy Day Fund that can make up the shortfall.
“Just last year there was criticism for providing extra funds to the Rainy Day Fund and Stabilization Fund. Once this COVID-19 virus is conquered, and it will be, we must be assured there is in place a plan for the complete recovery of our free market economy.”
By the way, Sharp is pleased to report his test for COVID-19 came back negative.
Rep. Zack Taylor reports much the same thing.
“If there is something that needs voted on during this time, we will be notified of what bill or bills will be voted on,” he said.
“Then, if we are unable to come to the Capitol due to illness or quarantine, we will have the ability to give our proxy to the Majority Whip. We would be able to tell the Majority Whip how to vote on our behalf.”
He agreed with Sharp that “it is unlikely that we will look at very many policy bills this year.“
Taylor said contacts from constituents “have gone up quite a bit. Everyone is concerned about what is going on with the COVID-19 virus.
Some have needed help with OSDH, others are concerned about announcements coming from the Governor and State Superintendent,
and some have been concerned about the availability of chloroquine/plaquenil …I am happy to be a resource through this trying time. Feel free to contact me by email at [email protected] or leave a voicemail at 405-557-7372 and I will call back.“
Rep. Danny Sterling gave a lengthy update on his Facebook page earlier in the week.
“The House operated remotely Monday and it worked well,” he said. “Members were working, constituents were in touch with us and staff were performing their regular duties – all remotely. The House continued functioning while following appropriate public health precautions.
”In addition to usual duties and district work, House members participated in a host of conference calls and video conferences with state and federal officials concerning the ongoing COVID-19 response,” he said.