OPINION

Make your voice heard, but do it peacefully

Sen. Bill Coleman

We are one week closer to starting the 58th Legislature. After the last year we’ve experienced, with the pandemic and political unrest around the nation, I find myself more anxious than ever to get to work on the many issues facing our state.

House and Senate staff have worked tirelessly under tense circumstances with increased security. I’m proud of those citizens who peacefully gathered recently at the state Capitol to share their concerns about the national election. But I’m also glad that no additional protests were held at our state Capitol, as House and Senate staff were working extremely long hours, even coming in to work on the holiday Monday, Jan. 18, to ensure all bills were filed by the Thursday, Jan. 21, deadline.

While the Oklahoma Capitol is the people’s house and a beautiful tourist attraction, as are other state Capitols, it’s also a workplace for hundreds of dedicated government employees, who deserve respect and the right to do their jobs without fear.

Again, I fully support Americans voicing their opinions and exercising their freedom of speech, but we must never resort to violence. I thought it was so fitting and a strong reminder as we celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday that “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We must come together as a nation, putting the political divisiveness aside and focus on coming together in love and unity as one nation under God. Watching the inauguration of President Joe Biden and listening to the words of our national anthem, "This Land is Your Land," "America the Beautiful" and "Amazing Grace," I’m hopeful that we can come together and heal the hurts and find a way forward showing the world a strong, unified force. Our future depends on it.

Back at the Oklahoma Capitol, more than 900 Senate bills and joint resolutions were filed for the upcoming session including my 13. I’d like to mention two of mine this week.

Senate Bill 478 is an important one for rural Oklahoma. It authorizes Certified Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists and Certified Nurse-Midwives to prescribe and administer certain controlled dangerous substances under the supervision of an Oklahoma licensed supervising physician. It also allows pharmacists to dispense prescriptions for controlled dangerous substances prescribed by an Oklahoma-licensed physician assistant who is supervised by an Oklahoma-licensed supervising physician.

SB 394 deals with qualifications for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. It would allow the Department of Human Services to exclude a vehicle with an equity allowance of up to $10,000, rather than the current $5,000, from the determination of resources available to meet the needs of a TANF applicant or recipient. The whole purpose of TANF is to help people work. If they don’t have a reliable vehicle, they can’t get to work.

I want to thank everyone who showed up for the redistricting meeting in Ponca City.  These meetings are important to the process of redrawing legislative and congressional district lines. We want to make sure the public understands the process and has the opportunity to share their input. If you have any thoughts or questions on redistricting, you can share those at redistricting@oksenate.gov.

Last Saturday, Jan. 23, I planned to attend the Osage County Republican Convention and looked forward to visiting with everyone.

This week, I was scheduled to be at the Capitol from Monday through Wednesday for various meetings and budget hearings.

On Tues., Jan. 26, the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Transportation was scheduled to hear presentations from the Merit Protection Commission, the Department of Emergency Management, OMES (the Office of Management and Enterprise Services), the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority, the State Auditor, the Oklahoma Military Department, the Oklahoma Tax Commission, and the State Treasurer.

On Wed., Jan. 27, we’ll meet with the Election Board, the Ethics Commission and the Department of Transportation.

All these meetings will begin at 9 a.m. in Room 230. If you’d like to tune into any of the appropriations subcommittee meetings, you can do so at www.oksenate.gov under “Live Proceedings” or watch the meetings later by clicking on the monthly calendar on that page as well.

Other subcommittees that will also be meeting next week including Health and Human Services and Public Safety. I hope you will browse the Senate website and see all the hard work happening on your behalf.

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