The coming of fall means it’s time for county fairs. We’re very fortunate to have wonderful fair grounds and facilities in Payne County. The fair gives me a great opportunity to visit with the people of Payne County about their thoughts on government and issues they’re particularly concerned about and I appreciate that input and feedback. It’s also fun to view the home development displays, see the farm animals and enjoy all the other exhibits during the fair’s run. I want to thank everyone who took the time to visit and to support the Payne County Fair.

Back at the Capitol, work continues to build as we get closer to the beginning of the 2020 session. There are still meetings taking place to help us determine the structure of the Legislature’s new LOFT division, which will give us accurate, objective figures and analysis on all appropriated dollars, how they’re being used, and the effectiveness of the programs your tax dollars fund. Meetings also continue with the joint Healthcare Working Group, which is examining how Oklahoma can best improve its public health outcomes and increase access to quality healthcare.

Along those lines, I recently attended a presentation on a healthcare program called ECHO at OSU Tulsa. ECHO stands for Extension for Community Care Outcomes. This program first began in New Mexico in 2002. ECHO utilizes videoconferencing to conduct virtual clinics between medical experts and community providers to help people in rural area get access to specialized care – it’s a model that increases access, reduces cost and improves patient outcomes.

Fully expanded, this can be an important tool in helping keep rural hospitals open and improve Oklahoma’s overall medical coverage. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have Stillwater Medical Center as a regional lead hospital with affiliations in Perry and Cushing. I believe this concept may well improve our overall health outcomes for Payne County as well.

In addition to the ongoing joint working groups for LOFT and for healthcare, we’re also beginning to see committee meetings scheduled for various interim studies. These studies give us an opportunity to take deep dives into complex issues ahead of the upcoming session. I requested a study of the pre-paid debit cards that have been used for such things as state tax refunds, replacing the paper checks taxpayers used to receive. The change was adopted several years ago as a cost-saving measure, improving internal controls and efficiency in operations. My study, which will take place in October, will evaluate whether the use of these cards has met expectations. I’ll keep you informed.

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.

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