Thursday, April 22 marked the deadline for the Senate to hold floor votes on bills that had been sent to us from the House of Representatives. They sent approximately 325 bills over and of those, we approved about 278 measures.

I’m principal Senate author of House Bill 2362, which requires that all claims by the state or municipalities on real estate for taxes and other liens are extinguished when conveying title to the board of county commissioners. This allows the county to acquire property with a clean deed. Often, these purchases pertain to blighted or condemned properties that hamper development. Making it easier for counties to acquire title to these properties can improve the development of certain areas. That bill has now been signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

I think many of you will be interested in another measure I supported in the Senate this week. House Bill 2566 would make sure that long-term care facilities have a visitation plan in place in the event of future emergencies. Strict no-visitor policies were instituted during the pandemic to reduce disease spread and save lives, but going months without visits from family, friends and other outside caregivers took a terrible toll on the physical and mental well-being of residents.

Under this legislation, every long-term care facility would be required to provide reasonable access to a resident by family, compassionate caregivers, essential support persons and health care providers. Those facilities would be required to submit those procedures for visitation during an emergency to the State Department of Health. Visitation and access would be subject to reasonable clinical and safety restrictions as ordered by the Health Department or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but long-term care facilities would not be allowed to eliminate all visitations. Visitation could be temporarily suspended for a period not to exceed 72 hours, based on OSDH’s emergency preparedness plan. This bill is now on it’s way to the governor for his consideration.

As you may know, the Legislature has been in the midst of the redistricting process for the past several months. Every 10 years, following completion of the U.S. Census, we are required to redraw legislation and congressional boundaries to ensure equal distribution of population. Legislative redistricting must be completed by the end of the session following the year in which the census was conducted.

During the last redistricting process 10 years ago, each Senate district ended it up with just over 78,000 people. Due to population growth, that number has now grown to just under 82,000. Because of population changes in our area and surrounding districts, the boundaries for our district, SD 21, have shifted. The west side of Stillwater, west of Country Club Road, will become part of Senate District 20. However, the east side of District 21 will extend all the way up to Lake Keystone, and will include the community of Oilton, which currently is part of Senate District 12.

The Senate Select Committee on Redistricting will hold a public meeting in the coming days to consider the redistricting bill. The meeting will be livestreamed on the Oklahoma Senate website. The new district maps and related materials, all comments submitted by the public, as well as archived video of all redistricting town hall meetings and training sessions can be found on the Senate website at www.oksenate.gov/redistricting. If you have any questions or comments, email redistricting@oksenate.gov.

I thank you for the privilege of being your voice at the State Capitol. If you have any questions or concerns about legislation or other issues at the state level, please feel free to contact my office by calling 405-521-5572, or email Tom.Dugger@oksenate.gov.

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