Praying for flood-affected, damaged areas of Osage County

Bill Coleman Senate District 10
State Sen. Bill Coleman

The 2019 Legislative Session has adjourned Sine Die. My first year in the Legislature has been an incredible experience and I want to thank you all once again for entrusting me with this tremendous honor.

Just because session has adjourned, however, doesn’t mean our work is done. We’ll now turn our attention to those issues that we weren’t able to address this session. Many of those will be further researched in House and Senate interim studies to bring in experts and other individuals so we can learn more about the issue and how Oklahoma needs to address it.

I’ve already got ideas for legislation next session. If you have ideas, please contact me so we can discuss them.

We’ll also begin working on next year’s budget in the next couple of months. We’ll see what we were able to accomplish this year and see what other needs must be addressed next year. It’s exciting that revenues are continuing to climb. The next budget should be as good or better than this year’s.

The legislature approved more than 450 bills. As of Thursday, the governor had signed nearly 430 of those. I’ll do my best to discuss many of these bills throughout the interim. Each week, I’ll focus on a different area like education, public safety, children, veterans, etc.

The governor approved my HB 1341 last week. Again, this will allow someone with a mixed beverage license to also obtain and have a retail beer license or retail wine license if they qualify and maintain all qualifications of the licenses.

One of my bills, HB 2009, didn’t make it out of conference committee. Since it wasn’t acted on it can be taken up again next session. Currently, a second or subsequent offense of a nonviolent crime carries as much as twice the original crime sentence. Under HB 2009, subsequent offenses would get no more than the maximum sentence plus an additional quarter of the maximum. It was estimated that HB 2009 could reduce Oklahoma’s prison population by as much as 17 percent over ten years providing cost savings to the Department of Corrections (DOC) depending on how many individuals received the reduced sentence. According to DOC, it costs an average of $58.70/day or $21,425.50/year to incarcerate an inmate.

Reforming our criminal justice will remain one of our top priorities. We must continue passing policies to lower our out of control prison population, address the addictions and mental issues that cause people to commit crimes in the first place and help ensure ex-offenders have the tools they need to start a new life.

Gov. Stitt issued an executive order last week creating the Criminal Justice Reentry, Supervision, Treatment and Opportunity Reform (RESTORE) Task Force. The group will study how to reduce Oklahoma’s incarceration rate, reduce the recidivism rate, and enhance and establish diversion programs. They will collaborate with the Criminal Justice Reclassification Coordination Council, which is currently preparing a report to modernize and classify the criminal code. This will, in turn, lay the groundwork for additional sentencing reform and bail bond reform. We’ll have many criminal justice reform bills next session.

In closing, please know that the Senate family as well as mine are praying for the citizens of Skiatook, Hominy, Pawhuska, Fairfax and other areas affected by the recent storms and flooding. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance in the coming weeks.

Please continue reporting storm damage at damage.ok.gov or by calling 211. This is so important to assist state and local emergency managers with response and recovery efforts. If you need information on shelters or other assistance, you can contact the Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767 or redcross.org.

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