Five weeks of the legislative session are now behind us, and we’ve had lengthy agendas on the floor as we work toward the March 14 deadline for the full Senate to vote on bills that were approved in committee.
Even though we’ve passed the deadline for committee consideration of Senate bills, the work of our committees is not over. All the bills that were approved by the House of Representatives are starting to come over to the Senate, and the first step is for those bills to be assigned and heard in committee.
This past Tuesday, the committee I chair, Senate Rules, took up the so-called Unity Bill, which sets up the regulatory framework for medical marijuana. There were many important issues that were not addressed in State Question 788, the law voters overwhelmingly approved last June at the polls. There were many safety issues, concerns about labeling and the rights of workers and employers to name a few.
I co-chaired a bicameral, bipartisan task force that met for several months. We held public hearings and got input from people in the industry, medical professionals and other stakeholders before developing our proposals. The Unity Bill includes much of that and yet does not repeal or change the medical marijuana law that voters approved—it simply builds on that law to ensure we have covered safety, property, employment and other issues that must be addressed. That bill was approved unanimously by the Rules Committee and will be heard by the full Senate next week.
I also won unanimous approval by the full Senate this past week for Senate Bill 841, the Prescription Access and Affordability Act, which I also authored. The legislation will give better consumer protections for Oklahomans and protections for local pharmacies who want to help customers save money on prescriptions.
You might be surprised to know that right now, pharmacists can be contractually prevented from telling customers about ways they can save money on their prescriptions. My bill addresses that and many other issues to ensure consumers have more information about their prescription coverage as well as provisions to better enable our local pharmacists to serve their customers without interference from insurance companies.
Finally, both the House and Senate advanced various government accountability measures this past week—measures that will enable the governor to actually hire and fire executive directors at five agencies, including the Department of Corrections; the Department of Transportation; the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; the Office of Juvenile Affairs; and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. These executive agencies are vehicles for enacting public policy the governor was elected to pursue. Ensuring he or she has the ability to put people in place who can make those policy goals a reality makes good sense.
This change ensures the buck will indeed to stop with our chief executive. If the policy and programs do not provide the services the public expects, the governor will be directly accountable—at the polls.
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.