Strengthening policy to benefit students
I must start by congratulating Marlow on a huge win Saturday. It’s been an incredible journey for both the Outlaws and the Washington Warriors. To have the two top teams in Class 2A in one Senate District is a testament to what public education is doing in rural Oklahoma and I’m incredibly proud to represent both school districts.
Last week, I discussed three of the measures I’ve filed so far, dealing with education. I have several others, around 30 to be exact, that I’ll be working on in the coming weeks. Among those are bills looking at certified school counselors, tuition, and fee rates, requiring Family and Consumer Science for high school graduation, and caps on substitute teachers. Although these are out of my comfort zone, I look forward to learning how to strengthen public policy in Oklahoma to benefit students.
For health-related legislation, I’ll be working to address our nursing shortage, from certified nurse aides to registered nurse programs and making improvements to Oklahoma’s intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICFs/IID). We are behind the times in Oklahoma when it comes to serving individuals with disabilities. I believe with my professional experience, I can help to improve facility-based services for those who need them.
I’ve requested legislation to provide incentives for companies who support victims of domestic abuse. We consistently rank as one of the top five states for the highest rates of women killed by men, and 2020 saw a record number of domestic violence reports. Last year, law enforcement received nearly 27,100 reports of abuses, including murder, sex crimes, threats, and assaults—the highest number in at least 20 years. Last year, nearly 7 out of every 1,000 Oklahomans experienced domestic violence – supporting these victims will help decrease these statistics, improve quality of life, and help law enforcement focus their time and resources on other ways to keep our communities safe.
Other issues I’d like to tackle include creating a standardized system for state agency background checks, tightening up regulations and closing loopholes for juvenile sex offenders, providing an income tax credit for automotive manufacturing, creating District Attorney Multidisciplinary Teams to focus on elder abuse, and providing bidding preference for Oklahoma-based companies.
Besides working on legislation, we’re also continuing work on the budget. State agencies have all submitted their requests for the upcoming session and now our appropriations subcommittees will start meeting with them to get a better understanding of their financial needs. My first agency budget hearings start this Wednesday, where we will hear from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, the Office of Disability Concerns, the Oklahoma State University Medical Authority, and the University Hospitals Authority OUHCS. These public meetings will be streamed live on the Senate website at www.oksenate.gov. We’ll be meeting with the other eight agencies under our purview in the coming weeks.
In closing, the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding is continuing to meet regularly. This bicameral, bipartisan legislative committee is working hard to decipher how best to utilize the state’s $1.9 billion of American Rescue Act Plan (ARPA) federal funding, and they’d like to hear from you. At https://oklahoma.gov/arpa.html, you’ll find information about the ARPA funding and the parameters on spending it, how the committee will be vetting proposals, and how the public can submit project proposals for the committee’s consideration. The committee will provide a list of proposals to Gov. Stitt, who has the final say on how these federal funds will be spent. They must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026. These are our tax dollars, so it’s important to pay attention to this process. You’ll find the meeting schedules and can watch them live at www.oksenate.gov.
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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