Oklahoma state senate completes essential work
We completed all essential work for session on Friday. However, because of all the uncertainty with the health crisis and to make sure we don’t have to come back into special session to address any possible actions by the governor, we have adjourned to a time certain on Friday, May 29, by 5 p.m. This gives us the ability to come back to the Capitol and finish up any necessary work that might come up in the next two weeks, if necessary.
It’s disappointing that so many good bills had to be left on the table, but we had to protect the health of our staff and ourselves while following the state social distancing guidelines. Several of my Senate bills were awaiting a final hearing in the House. These will have to be reintroduced next session.
This past week, we voted on over 100 bills and confirmed more than 130 executive nominations. In all, we confirmed nearly 200 of Gov. Stitt’s executive nominations to state boards and commissions. While there are more than 500 of these around the state, the governor only has constitutional authority to appoint members to around 260 of them.
I was honored to carry the executive nomination of Jeanine Watkins of Lindsay to the Oklahoma Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board before both the Senate Energy Committee and the full Senate. She will serve a four-year term ending June 30, 2024, succeeding David Root.
I also had the privilege of carrying the nomination of Jan Gaddis, an attorney in Duncan, to the Forensic Review Board. She was confirmed by both the Senate Public Safety Committee and the full Senate. She will serve a fiveyear term ending December 31, 2024, succeeding Yukon attorney, Michael Segler.
One bill that I was glad to see get through this session is HB 4018, also known as the Rural Broadband Expansion Act. I am a co-author on this bill. Perhaps you or someone you know has experienced lack of internet or poorly performing service. This is an especially common occurrence in rural Oklahoma. Sadly, our state is ranked 47th nationally for rural broadband access, which is unacceptable and has to be addressed and changed immediately.
HB 4018 will create a council to study broadband access throughout the state and figure out what it will cost to expand it statewide.
Internet is something that is used by our students, employees and businesses, as well as private citizens to keep up to date on news and weather. If you’re applying for a job, like thousands of Oklahomans are doing right now, more than likely you’ll only be able to do so online. If you don’t have access to internet, you’ll have to find a public location where you have access to it in order to search and apply for jobs. It’s also no coincidence that the communities and areas of the state with the lowest census participation don’t have broadband access. I’m anxious for this council to be created and begin their research so we can get this basic service to all Oklahomans.
When not working on legislative business, I’m typically meeting with constituents around our district. With the pandemic, my schedule has changed somewhat but it is getting back to normal. While I spoke to Leadership Duncan in a Zoom meeting, I was able to attend the Garvin County GOP meeting in person. I know, like so many of you, that we are ready for life to return back to normal.
As we enter the second phase of the state’s reopening, I want to remind everyone that the virus is still active and spreading. Just because things are opening up, please continue to practice social distancing, wear masks in public and wash your hands thoroughly. We don’t want COVID-19 to get out of control again and shut us back down this fall or winter. We must be responsible and do our part to stop the spread of this dangerous virus.
If I can be of any help, please do not hesitate to contact me at Paul. Scott@oksenate.gov or (405) 521-5522.