We’ve concluded the 11th week of session and are just a few days away from the next deadline for action on legislation. April 22 is the last day to vote on bills that started out in the opposite chamber.
In the Senate, we began work this past week with over 300 House bills to consider and worked through nearly 120 of those. We’ll tackle the remaining measures in the coming days.
When the session began the first week of February, we knew we’d be working on key issues like determining how to fund Medicaid expansion, writing the budget, and redrawing district boundaries for legislative and congressional seats.
These topics still loom large in the remaining weeks of the session. But one of the biggest challenges this year came later that month. Until it hit, we had no idea that we’d soon be in the midst of a historic winter storm that would result in huge increases in utility bills. Without mitigation efforts, those spikes in gas and electric bills would have a terrible impact on the finances of individuals and families, businesses and negatively affect the entire state’s economy.
Oklahoma has about $4.5 billion in energy generation costs from the storm. Because fuel used to generate electricity is a pass through to ratepayers, customers are obligated for that expense. Without intervention, an individual could see a pre-storm gas bill jump from about $100 to nearly $2,000 just in the first month. The second month would be more than $1,200, eventually tapering down over the next six months. But the legislation we approved will allow us to use bonds and other financing to secure that debt and spread the increases out over a period of several years, bringing the monthly increase down to a projected $10 month. This is just one example – the costs will vary depending on an individual customer’s usage during that time and other factors.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General will continue investigating any price gouging and market manipulation that may have occurred, and any clawbacks found by the A.G. will be used to pay off these energy costs for ratepayers.
I’ve continued presenting House bills on the floor that I’m the principal Senate author of and on Thursday, I secured full Senate approval for a bill that will basically make it easier for towns to clean up dilapidated buildings – this will be of help in communities throughout our state.
Finally, I wanted to share more encouraging news about our state’s economy. Because we’ve done a good job managing our finances during the pandemic, Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings has revised Oklahoma’s outlook from negative to stable. This should help the state reduce interest costs on future bond issues.
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.