Senate Notes

 

February 11, 2021

Although work at the Capitol takes place throughout the year with interim studies, task force meetings and preliminary budget work, no official action on legislation can occur unless the Senate and House are in session. 

Under the Oklahoma Constitution, the regular session begins on the first Monday of February. On that first day, members of the two chambers meet in a joint session to hear the governor's State of the State address, giving him the opportunity to present his policy and budget priorities. After that, the focus turns to committee work on legislation.

In recent years, the first few days after the opening of the session have been a bit like the calm before the storm as committee chairs worked to finalize their agendas to consider bills assigned to them. This year is a completely different situation. 

Because of the pandemic, last spring the Legislature paused the session for several weeks - something that's happened in statehouses across the country in the era of COVID-19.  When we were able to safely return to the Capitol, there simply was not enough time remaining to complete votes on many important pieces of legislation. 


Many of those bills were refiled to be heard this year. In all, some 1,035 bills were filed in the Senate alone for this session. That meant we'd need to hit the ground running, and we have. Committees had full agendas this past week, and that workload will increase weekly until we hit the Feb. 25 deadline for committee votes on bills filed in our chamber.

We also had our first floor vote on a bill this past week, fast-tracking a bill to allow public bodies to meet virtually, including city and county government entities. We'd passed legislation to allow this during the 2020 session, but that exemption to the state's Open Meeting Act expired in November. 

Senate Bill 1031 will allow those virtual meetings to resume, and these exemptions will remain effective until Feb. 15, 2022, or until 30 days after the expiration or termination of the state of emergency declared by the governor in response to the threat of COVID-19, whichever date occurs first. The bill also has other provisions to ensure public access to virtual meetings.

I know this has been an issue of great concern here in the district as local officials have sought to conduct the public's business in the safest way possible. I'm very gratified it was the first piece of legislation we approved this year.

I am honored to serve you in the Oklahoma State Senate.  If you have a question about a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (405) 521-5541 or by email at [email protected] 

 

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