Citizen advocacy aids legislative process

Sen. Bill Coleman

We have one month left to finish our work on the remaining policy measures, executive nominations, and the state budget. This session, I’m happy to be carrying several executive nominations of outstanding individuals in Senate District 10, including Newkirk resident Jason Grace and Ponca City residents Rick Scott and Molly Kyler to the Board of Trustees of the University Center in Ponca City before the Education Committee. I’ll also be presenting the nomination of Rodney Owens of Sand Springs to the Commission on Consumer Credit in the Business and Commerce Committee.

While several more of my Senate and House bills were approved this week before the floor deadline, I want to share some of the other great bills we considered — many of which resulted from the passionate advocacy of Oklahoma families. We passed the Hannah McKenzie Act, which is named after a young lady who died after illegally being given methadone at an opioid substitution treatment facility. Her parents learned that there is no tracking or oversight of these clinics in Oklahoma, so this bill will require opioid substitution treatment programs to comply with all federal requirements for opioid treatment programs to improve regulation and hopefully keep more families from experiencing the tragic loss of the McKenzie family.

Given how popular boating is in our state, another bill could help educate people about an unexpected danger on the water. Andy’s Law is named in memory of an Oklahoma boy who died of open-air carbon monoxide poisoning after a day on Lake Eufaula with his family. This will require boats to have a carbon monoxide warning sticker, so boaters are reminded of this potential danger.

The Caring for Caregivers Act also moved forward to provide a $2,000 tax credit for those who care for family members ages 62 or older. These individuals spend countless hours and money taking care of their loved ones. Those caring for a veteran or someone with dementia would get a $3,000 tax credit. Currently, around $224 in state and federal funds is spent per nursing home resident each day, totaling $69,000 a year. Compared to that astronomical expense, this incentive would only cost $5.47 or $8.21 per day.  Since nearly 26% of Oklahomans over the age of 45 are currently providing care for a family member or friend, this would be greatly beneficial for Oklahoma families and taxpayers.

We’re also working to improve Oklahoma’s 911 emergency system by modernizing it from an analog to a digital system. Though it’s saved countless lives, the current system is using 40-year-old technology, and it’s time to upgrade to Next Generation 911 (NG911). Making this change will speed up response times, improve caller location services, and better coordinate responses. This is named in memory of Haiden Fleming, who died after suffering a cardiac emergency. His family lived close to a county line, which caused problems for 911 and emergency responders. This would be a welcome change not only in cases of individual emergencies but during natural disasters like the ones that have struck our state this month.

You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.

Editor's Note: Sen. Coleman completed this column last week, before political hostilities broke out between Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Senate.