By GEORGE BURNS
After a few heavy weeks, we finally hit our first deadline of this legislative session. All bills that were filed in our chamber must have been heard in our Senate committees by Thursday in order to continue within the legislative process. Of the nearly 800 Senate bills that were filed this session for consideration by our chamber, we approved about 400 of them. We’ll now shift our focus to vetting and voting on these bills as a full Senate body on the floor.
A bill that was passed out of committee and is now headed to the floor that I believe would interest many of you would prevent any public, charter or virtual school in the state from partnering with an organization or person that performs, induces or provides abortions. Planned Parenthood has partnered with the City of Los Angeles to put pop-up clinics in area high schools to provide birth control, sex education, sexually transmitted disease testing and more. These are topics that need to be addressed at home – not school where parents don’t know what information is being given to their children. I support this bill that would protect our students and their impressionable minds and keep these organizations out of our public schools.
The Board of Equalization recently met for the final time to certify the Fiscal Year 2023 budget numbers, which we will use to craft the state budget for the upcoming year. Our budgetary outlook is quite bright – we’ll have about $10.5 billion to appropriate for the more than 60 state agencies under our purview. It’s still important we be fiscally conservative with these funds. While this is the largest budget to be appropriated in our state’s history, nearly $1.3 billion of this is one-time carryover funds from previous sessions, so we don’t need to spend that on recurring expenses. I’m a staunch supporter of stocking some of this cash away in our state’s savings account to be used in the next inevitable economic downturn.
Finally, you may remember the state has received $1.87 billion in funding from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act. These ARPA funds will be spent to help the state recover from the pandemic. Project proposals have been accepted online at www.oklahoma.gov/arpa since October, and so far, there have been more than 800 projects submitted for consideration, with a total value of $12.8 billion in funding requests. While $1.87 billion sounds like a lot of money – and it is – it will unfortunately not fund all of the project proposals we’ve received. The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief will vote to close the portal to accept proposals on March 31, so there’s still time if you’d like to submit a project for consideration.
As I said, we’ll now give the measures passed out of committee a second look on the Senate floor. If you have any questions about legislation, or need assistance with an issue, please contact me by email at George.Burns@oksenate.gov or by phone at 405-521-5614.
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