When I first came to the Senate, we still were dealing with huge budget shortfalls—some of it was the result of economic shifts, but some of it was caused by a budgeting process that badly needed to be reformed. We made some very tough choices, but as a result, we are on much more solid footing and have the opportunity to begin making some very important investments.

I was extremely pleased to help pass House Bill 2676 off the Senate floor this past week. It provides $30 million for CIRB, the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges program. When we were facing drastic budget cuts in past years, we had to make some very difficult decisions to ensure the continuation of core services — but there were certainly no perfect solutions. Funds were moved from some areas to others. I am pleased we are beginning to be in a position to work on restoring some of those resources. Ensuring our counties can address critical transportation infrastructure needs is vital for commerce and for public safety. The measure passed both chambers unanimously.

Another measure that passed unanimously off the floor will help veterans throughout the state who depend on the services and programs offered by the American Legion. For years, Blue Star Mothers and Veterans of Foreign Wars have enjoyed a sales tax exemption, but for some reason, the American Legion was left out. With a fiscal impact of only $287,000, the cost will far be exceeded by the benefit to thousands of veterans who turn to the American Legion for help with benefits, career workshops, health care and so many other programs. We’ve gathered twice in special joint sessions this year to honor our service men and women — this bill ensures those words are backed up with actions that truly support our veterans. This measure also passed both chambers unanimously.

The Senate also joined the House in giving overwhelming approval to House Bill 1102. Last fall, Oklahoma voters approved a state question known as Marsy’s Law. This new law actually gave constitutional rights to victims of crime. For many years, crime victims and their loved ones often felt they were left in the dark and denied a voice. Marsy’s Law sets out victims’ rights to be kept informed about their cases, including the right to be present and heard at any proceeding involving the release, plea, sentencing, disposition or parole of an accused criminal. HB 1102 is companion legislation that updates our statutes to ensure we honor the will of the people who voted for Marsy’s Law. The next step is for the House to consider Senate amendments to the measure.

I am honored to serve you in the Oklahoma State Senate. If you have a question about a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (405) 521-5541 or by email at mccortney@oksenate.gov