Budget talks going well

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Last week was a short one. The Senate and House closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday being that we had session on President’s Day. This coming Thursday, April 25, is the deadline for consideration of bills in the opposite chamber. We have just over 200 more House bills on General Order.

As of Thursday, April 18, the Governor had signed 35 Senate bills and 43 House bills. Among them was HB 1024, of which I served as the principal Senate author. The bill, which went into effect upon being signed Tuesday, allows certified peace officers to work as off-duty security at establishments engaged in the alcoholic beverage business.

Another bill, HB 1175, which I’m also the Senate author on, was given final unanimous approval by the Senate on Tuesday and sent to the Governor on Wednesday. Again, this bill provides that a funeral director, within 60 days of the issuance of a death certificate, can request the correction of information in a death record, except the medical certification portion. The funeral director will be responsible for all amendment fees imposed by the Commissioner of Health for the correction. Finally, up to 10 certified copies containing the erroneous information can be exchanged for certified copies with the correct information at no additional cost.

In other news, budget negotiations are on track and proceeding well. There is a lot of agreement between the Senate, House and Governor’s office. Education will see another significant investment this year. Senate Republicans are also focusing on investing money in Criminal Justice Reform and diversion programs.

To clarify, HB 2304 (the COLA bill) isn’t dead. This has been misreported by numerous state media outlets. Rather, the Senate Retirement Committee sent it for an actuarial study in accordance with pension reform laws. Once the study is complete later this year, it can be considered by the committee in February.

Republican reforms in the last decade have strengthened our public pension systems by lowering their unfunded liability by several billion. For the House Democrats to insinuate Senate Republicans are playing political games with state retirees is absurd.

Democrats raided state pension funds to balance the budget and pay for political pet projects for decades. Republicans ended that practice and have invested more than $3.4 billion since 2011 above and beyond the normal employer contribution to fix Democrats’ past mistakes. By following the pension reform laws, we’re protecting the retirement of current and future state retirees by ensuring the long-term solvency of the pension systems.

On Wednesday, I welcomed Phillips 66 executives from Ponca City and Bartlesville to the Capitol. It was also good to see our 4H’ers from Kay and Osage counties.

On Monday, I was scheduled to carry my first executive nomination in the Public Safety Committee for Julie Lynn from Skiatook to the State Fire Marshal Commission. She will be the first female firefighter ever appointed to the commission.

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter holiday.

Contact District 10 State Sen. Bill Coleman at the state Capitol by calling 405-521-5581 or by email at bill.coleman@oksenate.gov.