It’s hard to believe, but I’m officially not a freshman senator anymore. What an interesting time to be in the Legislature and have a front row seat to history in the making. Unfortunately, it’s been sad history the last couple of months, but I’m so proud of our state employees, especially in the Senate.
I want to thank our Senate Leadership and staff for their hard work in getting us through the COVID-19 pandemic. I, especially, want to thank my Executive Assistant, Cindy Stevens, who has been helping and continues to help so many with their unemployment issues and other problems they’re dealing with during this worldwide crisis.
Senators and staff alike teleworked around the clock to ensure the people’s business continued to get done. This was an extremely stressful and emotional time for many, dealing with the changes to their family life and worrying about protecting their families but then having to put all of that aside to confront this crisis head-on to help the people of Oklahoma. It was not easy, and I applaud our state employees for their dedication and resilience.
For the most part, our state government system was not set up for telework and to address a health crisis of this magnitude. But this historic crisis has now forced our state agencies to provide more digital services and forced employees to work from home. I’ve said it before, but we will come out of this stronger than ever.
The Legislature realized the benefits of putting additional funds into the state’s emergency savings accounts last year, which made a tremendous difference in filling the current year’s revenue shortfall and next year’s $1 billion shortfall. Families have also realized the importance of heeding the advice of having 3-6 months of savings in the bank. We must all save for emergencies.
Our state agencies faced historic demands for their services, which has made them change how they do business. Websites and computer systems have been upgraded more than ever, and because of social distancing services are being offered digitally. Our state government is seeing where we need to improve overall services and trying to create more reliable revenue sources to protect state agencies and taxpayers. It’s been a learning experience for all of us.
Because our time was cut short, we had to only focus on those bills that were absolutely necessary to renew programs, committees or other aspects but also to address the critical needs of our state during this historic crisis and ensure our state government can continue providing services in the coming year.
I had seven Senate bills and 11 House bills that I’m the Senate author for that will have to be revisited next session.
The governor will have signed more than 150 bills into law by the end of the week. There’s a good chance we’ll be called back into session to override his vetoes of various bills. Once we do that, our work for the 2020 session will officially be done and we can Sine Die adjourn.
Please sign up for updates on our Senate website (www.oksenate.gov), follow our official Facebook page at Oklahoma State Senate or follow us on Twitter @OKSENATEINFO to stay up on what’s happening.
It’s been a fast and furious year and I’m looking forward to a short break to relax and then I’ll be back at it. With the continuing crisis, we’re already looking at what steps may need to be taken next session to further help the citizens of Oklahoma and modernize state services.
If you haven’t already, please fill out your U.S. Census form. Our state desperately needs the federal funds determined by the census population count. Every Oklahoman not counted, including infants and other children, will lose the state an estimated $17,000 in federal funds over the next decade. You can fill yours out at www.2020Census.gov; call 1-844-330-2020 or fill out the paper form mailed to your house.
Thank you again for letting me be your voice in the legislative process. If I can be of any assistance, please contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.