Tom Dugger

Even though the 2019 legislative session ended in May, there’s already a lot going on at the State Capitol as we begin preparing for the 2020 session.

This past week, the oversight committee for the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) held its first meeting. LOFT was one of our top agenda items during this past session and its purpose is to provide the public and policymakers with independent, objective research and data on state spending and program evaluation and performance.

The goal is to give us the information we need to be even better stewards of each public dollar while increasing transparency, accountability and public trust. Many other states already have offices like LOFT. It will ensure both chambers have the same, verifiable data. As chair of the Senate Committee on Select Agencies, I believe we’ll be very involved in this process and work to help provide information to LOFT.

In addition, the Senate President Pro Tempore recently released a list of 72 interim studies approved at the request of various members. During the regular session, our committees have only a few short weeks to consider and vote on proposed legislation. We really don’t have time during the session for in-depth fact finding and deep-dives into complex issues. Interim studies make that possible. This year’s topics deal with issues within education, health care, criminal justice, retirement issues and green cards.

Each study is assigned to the Senate Committee that deals with the relevant area of law – it’s up to the chair of that committee to determine when hearings are held. All interim studies must be completed by Nov. 8. To view the full list or look up meeting notices, you can go to the Senate website at www.oksenate.gov.

This past session I was pleased to co-author Senate Bill 232, which was signed into law and takes effect this November, making Oklahoma a Purple Heart State. This helps show the world the tremendous pride and gratitude our citizens have for the 1,340 Oklahoma veterans who have received this award. The Purple Heart is given to those who were wounded or killed while serving their country.

I am dedicated to improving the quality of care for Oklahoma veterans. The center in Talihina, an aging Tuberculosis Sanatorium, is being phased out and new modern facilities are being constructed in Sallisaw. The Ardmore Center is also being refurbished.

Finally, the State Department of Veterans Affairs is asking Oklahoma Veterans to sign up with their new online registry to help keep track of how many veterans we have, prevent fraud, and help give important information to veterans about benefits. It only takes a few minutes to sign up at https://odva.ok.gov/content/oklahoma-veterans-registry.

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 dugger@oksenate.gov.