According to Oklahoma’s Constitution, the Legislature must complete its work no later than 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May. That means we have until 5 o’clock Friday, May 31 to finish everything. Any bills that we’ve not completed voting on can be taken up again next session. But because the new budget year begins July 1, the Legislature absolutely must complete the job of writing and passing a balanced budget — something that is also mandated by the Oklahoma Constitution.

Budget negotiations have continued to take place at the Capitol. As I touched on in my last column, the biggest sticking point has been how best to invest more in education. I can tell you that my fellow members of the Republican Caucus and I have all visited with classroom teachers and administrators in our districts, and they’ve told us they want more money for the classroom and that they want the flexibility to use that money to lower class sizes, hire more support staff like counselors, or purchase things like textbooks and supplies.

On Thursday, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate announced a proposal by Senate Republicans to make an additional $200 million investment in common education. I have been pushing for additional, significant investments in public education this year, and I am very pleased with this proposal.

Meanwhile, conference committees are working on legislation to work out compromises on slightly different versions of bills passed by the House and Senate. One such bill awaiting final action in the Senate is HB 2632, the Patient’s Right to Pharmacy Choice Act. I believe this bill is extremely important to Oklahomans when it comes to choosing where they buy their prescription medicine and how much they pay for it.

This is a bill I’ve worked hard on throughout the 2019 session. The goal is to make sure patients can choose whether to use an independent, chain or mail order pharmacy. They shouldn’t be forced to use a pharmacy on the other side of the county when there’s a local pharmacy just down the street. The legislation also would put an end to “gag” clauses in pharmacy contracts that prevent a pharmacist from telling a patient how they can pay less for their prescriptions.

This bill is about promoting transparency and greater affordability for Oklahomans using their insurance to purchase prescription medication and making sure they still have access to their local pharmacies. I think that’s an excellent prescription for the citizens of this district and throughout our state.

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 reach me by email at mccortney@oksenate.gov