We’re now entering the final month of the 2021 legislative session. Under Oklahoma’s Constitution, the Legislature must conclude its work no later than 5 p.m. on the last Friday of May.
Having passed the April 22 deadline for floor votes on bills from the opposite chamber, now we’re at the point of the session where we decide whether to approve amendments made by our counterparts. If they are accepted, then the bill will go on to the governor. If, for example, I had a bill that was amended in the House, but I disagreed with the changes, I could move to reject those amendments and request a conference committee to iron out those differences, then the bill would have to be voted on in that final form by both chambers.
Work on the state budget intensifies in the closing weeks of the session. I can tell you that Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson and I are the first people here in the morning and among the last to leave in the evening. We’re in negotiations before session, after session, and often those meetings have to take place during session. Again, I feel so grateful for the opportunity to serve as vice chair with Sen. Thompson and I appreciate his leadership. As I’ve said before, the budget is probably the most important task of the Legislature—it directly impacts every single person in our state, and I do not take this responsibility lightly.
In my last article I mentioned work was continuing on legislative redistricting, which is the redrawing of the district boundaries every decade to ensure each district contains approximately the same number of people. During the last redistricting process 10 years ago, each Senate district ended it up with just over 78,000 people. Due to population growth, that number has now grown to just under 82,000.
The proposed maps have been released, approved by committee, and will next be voted on by the full Senate. You can view the maps online at www.oksenate.gov/redistricting. While there have been a few small adjustments to the Senate District 20 boundaries, our district remains predominantly rural—and I love it. I love representing our small towns, farms and ranches, where people still embrace traditional values. People know their neighbors, support their local schools, worship together on Sundays and cherish their families.
Rural Oklahomans have such respect for our country, and our fundamental rights carved out by our founders in the Constitution. One bill reflecting those values has now become law. Senate Bill 631 makes Oklahoma a Second Amendment Sanctuary State, meaning any federal, state, county or municipal law, act, executive, administrative or court order, rule, policy or regulation ordering the buy-back, confiscation or surrender of firearms, accessories or ammunition from law-abiding citizens in Oklahoma is a direct violation of our right to keep and bear arms, and unlawful.
I also want to tell you about another bill signed into law by one of my closest friends here at the Capitol, Senator Paul Rosino. We have a mentorship program for new members to help them learn the ropes. When I first was elected to this chamber, Senator Rosino was my mentor, and I am forever grateful for his friendship and guidance. He’s authored many, many bills that have resolved long standing issues in our state and truly moved Oklahoma forward.
Senate Bill 947, by Senator Rosino, will ensure that if Oklahomans are asked to vote on a state question, the information on the ballot must disclose if that proposal will cost our state money to enact and how much. It would also have to explain where that money may come from, such as federal funding, or a legislative appropriation, which could require a new tax, an increase of an existing tax, or cutting or eliminating existing services. We’ve worked hard to increase transparency in state government. This new law is another step in that process.
Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at Chuck.Hall@oksenate.gov.