OPINION

Legislators prepare for session, review budget requests

Sen. Bill Coleman

As February gets closer, a lot of work is happening at the state Capitol to prepare for the legislative session.

The Legislature’s main responsibility is passing a balanced budget, and that process starts in the appropriations subcommittees. Our nearly 70 state agencies submitted their budget proposals last fall and this month will explain their requests to the appropriations subcommittees responsible for their budgetary oversight.

I sit on the General Government and Transportation subcommittee. We oversee the budgets of 16 state agencies, including the State Auditor and Inspector, the Election Board, the Department of Emergency Management, the Ethics Commission, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the Merit Protection Commission, the Military Department, the Space Industry Development Authority, the Tax Commission, the Transportation Department and the Treasurer, as well as the Offices of the Governor and Lt. Governor, the House, Senate and the Legislative Service Bureau. Together, these agencies account for roughly $388 million of the annual state budget. They are vital agencies that impact all Oklahomans, so it’s important they are funded sufficiently to carry out their state services.

Our subcommittee has two meetings scheduled so far. The first meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, in Room 230 at the Capitol. We’ll be meeting with eight of the agencies. Now that we’ve had a couple of months to look over their budget requests, these meetings provide them an opportunity to explain why the requested funding is needed and share how they’ve used past appropriations.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, we’ll meet with three more agencies in the same location. We’ll meet with the other five agencies before the session convenes.

Like all Senate meetings, these will be streamed live at www.oksenate.gov and archived under “Calendar.” You’ll find the meeting agendas online as well.

Besides working at the Capitol on legislation, I’ve also been attending redistricting town hall meetings around the state including in Ponca City on Thursday. I want to thank everyone who took the time to come out and participate in the process. It has been great to visit about redistricting with Oklahomans from all corners of the state, hear their ideas and help them better understand the process.

If you’d like to share your thoughts or have questions, please submit them to redistricting@oksenate.gov or contact my office.

By the end of the month, we’ll have held 18 public meetings. All are available to watch on our website. The Senate has two more remaining in Enid on Jan. 21 and Owasso on Jan. 28. These can be watched live on our site as well.

On Thursday morning, I also held a Zoom call with our area school superintendents to discuss issues they’re facing and talk about the upcoming session.

Next Thursday, Jan. 21, is the bill filing deadline. I’ll be discussing my bills in the coming weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how many are filed and what issues we tackle given last year’s shortened session.

Finally, I want to encourage everyone who wants to get the COVID-19 vaccine to get online and register at www.vaccinate.ok.gov. If you’re not eligible to receive the inoculation in the current phase, you’ll receive an email reminder once you are.

However, if you’re a health care worker, first responder, or 65 or older, you can make your appointment now. Please be patient, as the state is receiving limited amounts of the vaccine weekly and posts the appointment availabilities every Wednesday night for people to claim Thursday mornings. If all the appointments are taken, please be patient and check back later. Everyone who wants the vaccine will be able to get it eventually.

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