Late census causes redistricting delay
We’ve made it to the final month of session. Budget negotiations are ongoing, and there should be an agreement announced soon. We’re continuing to review and vote on House amendments on Senate bills, and committees are also working through executive nominations.
This week, the Senate will be voting on legislation outlining the proposed redistricting maps. Besides the budget, this is one of our main constitutional duties that must be completed by the end of session. However, the census was delayed, and the final numbers won’t be available until sometime later this year, so population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau were used to redraw the Senate district lines. We’ll convene in special session once those final numbers are received to finish congressional redistricting and tweak the state legislative districts, if needs be.
I’m pleased to say that four more of my Senate bills were signed, along with six additional House bills. Since I’ve talked about these measures before, I’d like to tell you about some other major legislation that has been signed or is working its way through the process.
As someone in the healthcare industry, I was happy to see SB 674 go to the governor. This bill will ensure equal pay for physicians who care for patients using telemedicine, which has exploded during the pandemic. Historically, insurance companies have paid doctors less for telemedicine visits versus in-person office visits for the same services. Governor Stitt issued an executive order calling for payment parity last year, but he’s announced that he’ll be ending the state of emergency soon. SB 674 will ensure doctors are paid the same regardless if they’re seeing patients virtually or in-person. This is great news because the use of telemedicine has skyrocketed. In 2019, SoonerCare members had nearly 12,000 telehealth visits, and last year, that number grew to more than 333,000, which is an increase of over 2,700% in a single year.
An issue that has been of great concern to rural districts like ours is the increasing number of foreign investors purchasing property around Oklahoma to get a piece of the booming medical marijuana business. We approved HB 2272 to help create better transparency and accountability as to who is actually applying or has medical marijuana business licenses in our state. The bill will require current licensees and applicants to submit an attestation confirming or denying the existence of any foreign financial interests in their business operation. If foreign ownership exists, it must be disclosed within 60 days to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control or the Medical Marijuana Authority. Anyone who fails to submit such information to the Bureau within the specified period will have their license revoked.
Another great bill that was signed into law this week was SB 947. Had this law been on the books last year, it might have changed the outcome of the voter-approved Medicaid expansion last summer. This bill will ensure that state questions include information regarding any costs that the state and taxpayers may incur should those ballot measures be approved. Many voters had no idea that the state question they voted on was going to cost the state over $160 million annually. Taxpayers have the right to know what proposals will cost because that is their money. The bill further requires that the ballot provide possible funding sources, whether from the federal government or the state legislature, which could require a new tax, increasing an existing tax, or cutting or eliminating existing services to free up revenue Nothing is free in government.
You can learn more about these and other measures and new laws on our website at www.oksenate.gov.
In closing, I want to again thank the Duncan FFA for stopping by and visiting me this week along REC board members from Lindsay and the family of the late Coach Barry Foster. I also enjoyed attending the Republican Dinner in Amber.
If you have any questions or concerns on legislative matters, please contact me at the Capitol. Please 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.
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