August 27, 2020
I want to give thanks to all the citizens who have continued supporting me within the community. I'm thrilled to take the knowledge that I've gained from the Oklahoma House of Representatives and use it towards helping even more citizens in Lincoln, Pottawatomie, and Seminole Counties. It's truly an honor to serve as your State Senator at the State Capitol. I appreciate the opportunity given to me to represent an excellent district in the State of Oklahoma.
In the last two weeks, I've been working on new legislation for the upcoming session and settling into my new office space. As interim studies are just around the corner, work at the Capitol has started to pick up.
During this interim, the Senate committees will be holding nearly 40 meetings while the House has almost 75 to consider. Citizens can find the full list of meetings with their author, committee, and any online presentations on the Senate webpage. Live sessions are also provided. Typically, the public is welcome to attend the meetings; however, space is limited in the committee rooms with social distancing requirements.
If you're interested in a study because you have personal experience or expertise in that area or would like to participate, please contact the legislator who requested the study or the chair of the committee it has been assigned.
All interim studies must be completed by Friday, Oct. 30. Legislators will then begin to work on bill requests and the filing process.
The legislature uses several avenues to learn about specific issues to address them adequately with legislation. Session is fast-paced and requires patience. Typically, bills filed during session are a result of interim studies, working groups, commissions, councils, and state agency requests. Interim studies tend to be only a few hours long, while working groups will spend weeks and months on subjects such as the medical marijuana group. Commissions and councils are also long-term groups that study an area and report to legislators how they feel the state should move forward on those issues.
One area of great concern is Oklahoma's lack of broadband connectivity around the state. It's hard to believe in this day and time that there are thousands of Oklahomans without access to the internet. This became obvious during the pandemic as citizens were unable to apply online for unemployment or jobs when the economy reopened, and students were not able to attend school virtually. This is something that negatively impacts businesses, healthcare, public safety, and various other areas.
Oklahoma currently ranks 47th for rural broadband access, which is unacceptable. In today's digital world, this is a basic necessity that should be available to all citizens. It affects private citizens and businesses trying to grow and deters companies from locating in Oklahoma. We are missing out on some great economic opportunities.
We approved the Rural Broadband Expansion Act this session that created a council of experts in this area to create a strategic plan for expanding broadband into rural areas. Each year, by Jan. 31, the council will provide a report to the legislative leaders detailing their findings from the past year and any actions or significant events in the state to help expand connectivity around the state. They'll also make recommendations for legislation as needed. The council had their first meeting this week, and I plan to discuss that next time with all of you.
More importantly, don't hesitate to call, email, or stop by to ask questions, share concerns or ideas about interim studies, current or future legislation, or any other issues. Open communication is key to helping strengthen our district and state. Please stay in touch and let me know how you think I can make SD28 a better district in the State of Oklahoma.
If you aren't already, please consider following the Oklahoma State Senate on Facebook and Twitter @oksenateinfo for all the latest updates. Be sure to check the Senate website (www.oksenate.gov) for meeting schedules and learn about what issues are being reviewed.