The legislative session may only last four months, but my work as your state Senator continues year-round. That’s certainly the case this interim as we continue to tackle some of the big issues facing our state, including finishing work on redistricting, continuing to address the driver license backlog, and the preliminary work on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget.
Under our constitution, the Legislature must complete redrawing boundaries for all state Senate and House seats by the conclusion of the session following the year in which the U.S. Census is conducted. Even though the pandemic delayed the release of the final figures, we were able to use estimates provided by the Census Bureau. We also worked to make the process as open and transparent as possible, holding a series of town hall and virtual meetings to enable the public to ask questions, make comments and even submit their own maps for legislative districts. That work was completed, and the final maps were approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor before the session concluded.
Now we are beginning the redistricting process for Oklahoma’s five congressional seats. Again, those districts must be redrawn every 10 years to make adjustments for population changes. The first in-person town hall will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, July 8 at the state Capitol in room 535. For a full list of town hall and virtual meetings, go to https://oksenate.gov/redistricting. We anticipate receiving the final U.S. Census numbers late this summer and will meet in a one week special session to be held in October to vote on the new maps for our congressional districts. If, after receiving the final census data, we need to make any adjustments to legislative districts, we will address those at that time.
We’re continuing to work out the details of megacenters that are planned for Oklahoma City and Tulsa this summer to help address the backlog of some 300,000 REAL ID driver licenses in our state. This is something I have been working on throughout this legislative session, and I anticipate being able to share more details soon.
In addition to working on the driver license issue on behalf of the Senate, I also continue to serve on the oversight committee for the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT). This is the office created to ensure the Legislature and the public have access to independent, objective research and data on state spending and program evaluation and performance. Among the deep dives coming up this summer, LOFT will be looking at the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) and the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges Program (CIRB).
Members of the Senate are also finalizing their requests for interim studies. These are requests for in-depth meetings on a variety of topics and issues. During the legislative session, there simply isn’t time to devote an entire committee meeting to a single topic. With interim studies, committees can hold long-format hearings to update members and the public about on-going issues and examine complex topics that may result in proposed legislation in the next session.
Last but not least, even though we just completed work on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which takes effect this July 1, as vice chair of Senate Appropriations, I’m already working with Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson and our fiscal staff on next year’s budget. Those meetings will continue throughout the interim.
The session may have officially ended, but our work in the Senate continues. I’ll keep you updated.
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.