This past week, I was asked by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Greg Treat, to take on another leadership role. I’ve been named as chair of the Senate General Government Committee. This committee considers policy legislation relating to municipal and county government, and the laws governing the functions of state agencies. Agencies often working with the General Government Committee include the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the Department of Commerce and the Office of the State Auditor and Inspector.
My new position is in addition to my work as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Select Agencies. This subcommittee oversees some 61 state agencies, boards and commissions that do not receive appropriations from the Legislature, but instead receive their funding from other sources, including fees for licenses, testing, permits, or other services. Combined, these entities have expenditures of approximately $1.6 billion. Our subcommittee provides oversight and accountability.
During the past few weeks, my fellow members and I have been participating in interim studies. As I’ve mentioned, because these studies take place in the months outside of the regular session, we can take more time to dive into complex issues. Some of these hearings may result in legislation being filed for the legislative session, while others may be informational to update members about ongoing issues of interest to the state.
Among the hearings I attended this past week was an interim study looking at how we can better support Oklahoma members of the military. One current benefit is a tuition waiver – there is great interest in seeing that benefit expanded to include fee waivers as well. Another study looked at how tax revenues from medical marijuana are currently being used and at a proposal to use some of those funds for healthcare purposes.
Although the regular session doesn’t get underway until February, on Nov. 15, we’ll convene in special session to finalize the new maps for congressional districts and make final revisions to Senate and House districts in the state Legislature.
The Constitution requires these boundaries to be redrawn every 10 years following completion of the U.S. Census, to ensure equal distribution of population. In past decades, these tasks have been completed in the session immediately following the census year, but because of delays due to the pandemic, the final population figures weren’t available until August. We did approve maps for the state’s legislative districts during the 2021 session, but some legislative lines that were drawn based on estimates provided by the Census Bureau will have to be adjusted to account for differences in the final, official numbers. Because the division of population between the state’s congressional districts can only vary by one person per district, we waited until this fall to complete those maps.
This has been the most open and transparent redistricting process in the history of this state. Overall, the Legislature held 30 town hall meetings, with both in-person and virtual gatherings, allowing for public input and questions, as well as public submissions of proposed maps. All of the town hall meetings are archived on the Senate and House websites for anyone who would like to view them, and questions, comments and public input can still be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m proud of the work done by our members and staff, and I really appreciate the participation of those citizens who attended meetings and submitted maps.
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.