Last week’s announcement about the creation of OPCIE, the Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence, is incredible news for OSU, Stillwater, Payne County and our entire state.

The facility will be the first center of its kind in the entire country and will serve as our frontline of defense against any future biosecurity-threatening diseases.

It will not only help Oklahoma to be more prepared for future pandemics, but will ultimately help our nation as well, whether the disease threat targets humans, animals or agriculture.

It will further elevate the status of OSU as a research university, but it will also create jobs and attract research and development funding to our state.

I’m proud to have been able to support this endeavor through my vote for the bonding for the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Public Health Lab, which will be constructed in Stillwater as a part of this project.

This lab will serve as a pillar of OPCIE and will include a human diagnostic/public health laboratory, a genetic biorepository and a multi-disciplinary basic science lab for human, animal, plant and food-related bioterrorism research.

The Research Institute for Economic Development recently released their annual Legislative Report ranking Oklahoma’s House and Senate members on their votes on business-related legislation. The report reflected my perfect score in support of legislation aimed at supporting Oklahoma businesses, growing our economy and creating jobs.

I was also grateful to be recognized by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy for having a perfect score in support of legislation relating to the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children. These measures addressed issues from juvenile justice, to child support, to legislation requiring dyslexia screening in our schools.

Although the U.S. Census had announced several weeks ago that they would wrap up everything by September 30th, Americans will now have until the end of October to complete their census questionnaires by mail, online at 2020census.gov or by phone at 844-330-2020.

As of Oct. 7, Payne County had a response rate of 60.7%, compared to 64.5% in 2010. For Stillwater, the response rate was 60.3%, compared to 67.6% 10 years ago. Cushing had a response rate of 55.5%, compared to 60.3% in 2010.

I can’t stress how important it is for us to get a full count. If our population is undercounted, we’ll miss out on millions of dollars in federal funds for services we all rely on right here in Payne County, including resources for education, transportation, health, mental health and so much more – and we’ll be shortchanged for the next 10 years. If you’ve already completed your 2020 census, thank you. If you haven’t, there’s still time before the Oct. 31 deadline.

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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