Whirlwind start to legislative session

by Jessica Garvin

Before I get into legislative matters, registrations for the COVID-19 vaccine can now be made at www.vaccinate.oklahoma.gov, along with scheduling your appointment. The state has a four-phase plan. Currently, only healthcare workers, first responders and those 65 years and older are eligible to be vaccinated.

The state receives weekly shipments and spaces are limited, but if there are openings when you pre-register and you’re in the eligible group, you’ll be able to schedule your appointment. If spots are full, continue checking daily until more become available. If you’re not eligible when you pre-register, you’ll get an email notice once it’s time to make your appointment.

The past two months have been a whirlwind. We had the swearing in ceremonies, training on legislative procedures and staff services, and we also got situated in our new offices. Last month was a race to get bill requests submitted and we’ve been working daily to finalize language on all our bills. I’ve had several virtual and in-person meetings with constituents the past few weeks. I’m enjoying learning about your issues and finding resources to help. I’m proud of my pro-business bills this session, and believe they’ll make a substantial impact on improving healthcare in Oklahoma.

In early January, we convened for organizational day to elect the Senate leader, announce other leadership positions and approve rules for the two sessions of the 58th Legislature. When I got to the parking lot, I found myself frozen and couldn’t help but think how blessed I am to get to work here. When I pressed my voting button for the first time and saw my name light up on the screen, I kept thinking of everyone back home who gave me the opportunity to press it. I got a little choked up thinking of all the hard work my friends, family and supporters did to get me into that chair.

This month, our subcommittees are starting budget hearings to learn how agencies have used their FY’20 appropriations. It’s our responsibility to hold agencies accountable and ensure they’re utilizing taxpayer funds efficiently and in a beneficial manner for the state and our citizens. Agencies submitted their budget requests in October and these meetings allow us to question those requests and learn what each agency plans to do in the upcoming budget year. Presentations will also include how federal CARES funds have been used and agencies’ plans for the new federal relief funds coming soon to the state. These hearings are an important part of the budget process.

I’m on the Appropriations Subcommittee for Health and Human Services, which oversees 12 agencies that received combined FY’21 appropriations of $2.39 billion out of the $7.7 billion state budget. 

We have three meetings scheduled:

n Thurs., Jan. 21 - Commission on Children and Youth, Dept. of Veterans Affairs, University Hospital Authority, Office of Disability Concerns and J.D. McCarty Center. Room 230 at 9:30 a.m.

n Mon., Jan. 25 – Dept. of Rehabilitative Services, OSU Medical Authority and Health Care Authority. Room 230 at 9:30 a.m.

n Thurs., Jan. 28 – Dept. of Human Services, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and Office of Juvenile Affairs. Room 230 at 10 a.m.

All Senate meetings and proceedings are livestreamed at https://oksenate.gov/live-proceedings.

In closing, I want to ask for continued prayers for our country and federal government during this difficult time. I’m an advocate of peaceful protest and for standing up for what you believe is right, but I’m against violence and hateful behavior. My biggest fear for America is that terrorists and extremists will now believe that our nation’s Capitol is an easier target than they did before Jan. 6, 2021.

I’m afraid that this behavior has opened us up to potential threats and exposed weaknesses that we might not have realized existed in the protection of our legislature and those who serve in D.C. It’s my prayer that we can find ways to heal and move forward, but also ensure that our federal government is a place of security and where the business of keeping America the greatest nation in the world can continue peaceably.

If you have any questions or concerns about legislative matters, please contact me at the Capitol. You can write to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at Jessica.Garvin@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5522.

Comanche Times