We’ve now completed the sixth week of the 2019 legislative session and hit our deadline for floor votes on the Senate bills that were approved earlier in the session in committee. We began the week with more than 300 bills to debate and vote on in a four-day period, which made for some extremely long but productive days.
The Unity Bill, providing the regulatory framework for medical marijuana in our state, was passed off the floor and has already been signed into law by Gov. Stitt. We also approved the LOFT bill, creating a nonpartisan budget oversight office to provide us with objective, accurate budget figures for all state agencies, enabling us to be better stewards of public dollars and the services they are intended to provide.
The House and Senate bills giving the governor the authority to hire and fire directors at five of the state’s largest agencies received final passage and on Wednesday were signed into law by the governor. The governor’s nominees for these positions will still have to be confirmed by the Senate, and the House and Senate will be able to remove agency leaders on a two-thirds vote in both chambers. These changes will provide accountability that is not provided for under the current system, enabling the governor to better enact the policies voters elected him to pursue.
Another bill approved by the Senate this week is called the Pay for Success Act. It’s a concept that would allow state agencies to enter into public/private partnerships to develop innovative approaches and programs on behalf of the state and its citizens — all without risking public dollars. The private partner funds the program up front. They only receive any payment if they achieve measurable goals as outlined in their contract. We’ve seen this work with a pilot program to divert women from prison and get them into substance abuse treatment programs, which helped them reclaim their sobriety and re-enter society as productive individuals.
I was very pleased to receive full Senate support for a bill that provides the mechanism for a second study of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. This five-year study will look at how the creation of wells or mines affects the aquifer, streams and springs. It’s the single source of reliable water for some 200,000 Oklahomans in communities like Ada, Ardmore, Tishomingo, Durant and many others. More than 70,000 jobs depend on this reliable, yet fragile, source of water.
In closing, I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Rhindi Isaacs, the Konawa Middle School student who died when the bus her softball team was traveling in was hit by another driver. I ask that all of you continue to hold her family in prayer, along with those who were injured and so many others who have also been impacted by this tragedy. I’m grateful for the outpouring of support by the community of Konawa during this most difficult time.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.