Fairfax hospital employees exemplify ‘Oklahoma Standard’

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital
Sen. Bill Coleman

We focused last week on floor work of Senate bills. The deadline to get bills out of the Senate is Thursday, March 14, and we had more than 500 to consider. Last week, we heard around 100 bills so this week will be extremely busy, and many of the measures probably won’t be heard.

The Governor, Pro Tem and Speaker came to an agreement on a government accountability package on Tuesday, March 5. It includes five bills that will give the governor the power to hire and fire for five of the top appropriated state agencies. They include the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority (SB 456), Oklahoma Department of Transportation (SB 457), Oklahoma Department of Corrections (HB 2480), Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (HB 2479), and Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (HB 2483).

I’m excited about these sweeping changes in the executive branch that will give the governor authority over our bigger agencies. The Senate Rules Committee approved House Bills 2479, 2480 and 2483 last Thursday and the full Senate will vote on them this week.

The Rules Committee also unanimously approved HB 2612, the Unity Bill. The measure creates the safety and regulatory framework necessary for Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry after voters approved State Question 788 last June. The industry is exploding, and it’s important that the Legislature address all areas of the issue to protect business owners, patients and public safety. There will be trailer bills following to address specific issues not detailed in HB 2612, including clarifying the authority of cities and counties.

Bills are beginning to come out of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget. This is the committee that crafts budget bills. The Senate approved the committee reports for some measures that will next be considered by the governor.

HB 2735 will pull back the $30 million previously appropriated to the State Department of Health. Of that, $3.7 million will be returned to the FY-19 General Revenue Fund, and $26.3 million will be placed in the Special Cash Fund of the state Treasury. HB 2736 repeals a 15 percent FY-19 savings mandate previously enacted for the Health Department. HB 2737 provides a supplemental appropriation to the state Supreme Court of $2.5 million. HB 2739 authorizes the appropriation of $5 million to the Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund.

I was honored recently to drive to Fairfax and deliver some pizzas to the employees at the Fairfax Community Hospital. Most of the workers there had not been paid in over a month, but are continuing to make sure area residents have a hospital when they need health care. These people are great examples of the “Oklahoma Standard”.

Progress is moving forward to put the hospital into more capable hands, and have local ownership.

On Wednesday of last week, Leadership Ponca City came to the Capitol. They got to visit both legislative chambers as well as meet Gov. Kevin Stitt, Treasurer Randy McDaniel, Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration David Ostrowe, Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn and Government Affairs Manager for the Mid-Continent Region for Phillips 66 H.J. Reed.

It was also a pleasure to have Gov. Stitt and Secretary Rogers stop by my office to visit.

My office also had some outstanding help last week. Barnsdall High School junior Chance McGill paged for us. It was the perfect week for him to see how fast paced the legislative process can be.

You can contact me at the state Capitol by calling (405) 521-5581 or by email at bill.coleman@oksenate.gov.