First, I want to thank the citizens of Senate District 21 for your continued confidence and trust you’ve again placed in me. I am honored and humbled to be returning to the Senate to be your voice for another four years. It’s an opportunity I do not take for granted.
We have many challenges in the months and years to come.
Our state is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of public health and our economy. Although Oklahoma’s unemployment figures have dramatically improved, our economy and the state budget are still being impacted. Energy prices have remained low.
We also face a new fiscal challenge in determining how we will pay for the expansion of Medicaid – this change could cost our state an estimated $150 million each year or more. It is going to be critical for us to continue to search for efficiencies and savings as we prioritize the core services of government, including education, transportation, public safety and health and mental health care.
But I also know that we are more than capable of rising to such challenges and finding opportunities to move our state forward. I also know from a lifetime of experience living and working in our state, that even in difficult times, we must remember that better days are coming. Our job as legislators is to help guide us through these challenges and ensure Oklahoma emerges even stronger than before. That work is already underway.
Although we have been preparing for the upcoming session for the past several months, from here on out, the pace picks up dramatically. The first day bills can officially be filed for the 2021 legislative session is Nov. 15, and the deadline for filing legislation is Jan. 21.
While the legislative session doesn’t formally get underway until the first Monday in February, under our constitution, in the years following an election cycle, the Legislature has a single organizational day in early January to elect leadership and adopt rules for the next two sessions. Throughout the coming weeks and months, I will keep you updated on both policy and budget issues of interest to our district and the state.
In addition to the regular work of the session, we’ll also be holding a series of public meetings throughout the state in the weeks ahead as we prepare to redraw legislative boundaries based on the just-completed 2020 U.S. Census. Our goal is to ensure the process is as open and transparent as possible.
Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to express how grateful I am to Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis for his leadership and service. As you probably are aware, he recently announced his plans to retire next July. The fundraising, growth and expansion at OSU during his tenure have been nothing short of phenomenal and transformative.
I am proud to know President Hargis and to call him a friend, and I am deeply thankful for all he has done for OSU and for Oklahoma. President Hargis, we will be forever grateful for your vision, inspiration, leadership and dedication. We wish you and Ann, our First Cowgirl, the very best as you complete your presidency and embark on the next chapter of your lives.
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.