OPINION

Legislative issue studies to begin soon

Sen. Bill Coleman

This past weekend, we celebrated America’s 245th birthday and our country’s independence from England’s tyranny and oppression. Though one of the youngest nations, we became a world power and continue to be the leader of the free world thanks to the hard work of our citizens, the courage and patriotism of our military and the faith of our communities.

Last year tested our country to the extreme, but we overcame just as we always do. This Independence Day, let’s take some time to truly recognize and celebrate our freedoms and those who have fought to protect and honor the red, white and blue, especially those who have laid down their lives in its honor. We are so blessed to live in this great nation.

I looked forward to attending the July 4th celebrations around our district. It’s so wonderful to see our local businesses and organizations open and doing great things, and I know we’ve all been excited for life to return to normal.

Back at the Capitol, there’s a lot happening as we’ve turned our attention to the next legislative session. Budget and policy work is ongoing. Interim study requests have been submitted, and we’ll have the approved list in the next week or so. Those studies will begin later this month and will run through November, ensuring we have enough time to decide which issues we want to tackle with legislation. The bill request deadline is Dec. 10, and then Senate staff have until Jan. 20 to draft and file legislation for the upcoming session.

I have a couple of exciting updates to share. The Research Institute for Economic Development (RIED) recently released its annual legislative report, and I’m pleased to say that I was one of only 22 legislators who received a perfect score for my support of bills to grow our economy and create jobs.

The report focused on 19 key measures, including two of mine. Senate Bill 609 sets the minimum investment into real property at $500,000 to qualify for the investment income tax exemption in 2022. The other bill is House Bill 2365, creating the Oklahoma Supplier Diversity Initiative to allow certain businesses and registered vendors to be automatically notified of opportunities to do business with the state. This will ensure our tax dollars are supporting more Oklahoma companies and small businesses. You can find the report card and other bills at www.riedreport.com.

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) also recently released its 2021 legislative score card, which included nearly 20 bills to help improve the lives of Oklahoma’s children. I’m pleased to have been named to the “CEO’s Honor Roll,” having received a score of 95 for my support of these important measures. To browse the score card, visit oica.org/2021-oica-legislative-scorecard/.

I was proud to coauthor one of the featured measures, HB 2367, to help those children, ages 16 to 17, who are homeless or the victims of abuse or domestic violence, be allowed to enter into housing contracts. This was requested by a successful Oklahoma City nonprofit, Pivot, which provides a variety of services for homeless youth including counseling, education, job assistance, food, and clothing. It also provides short- and long-term housing for kids, which this bill addresses. They have constructed tiny homes as a way to help youth learn how to be self-sufficient and learn life skills like paying rent and utilities. Unfortunately, it has run into an issue with allowing those 16 to 17 years old to sign a contract for one of the tiny homes.

HB 2367 changes the law beginning Nov. 1 to help our homeless youth in these unique situations be able to enter into housing contracts if they receive a certification of unaccompanied status from a DHS youth services provider. Parents or guardians must be notified that the child is seeking unaccompanied child status, but the certification won’t discharge the parent or guardian of parental or legal authority.

This program has proven so successful in helping these youth become independent adults, and I know more organizations are going to copy this model, so we wanted to make sure we do our part to help in those efforts.

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