Even after legislative sessions end, our work continues year-round. I have multiple weekly meetings at the Capitol, and events here in the district, and I’m also called upon to attend meetings out of state, many of which are related to my work as vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Last month, I traveled with Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson, along with Major General Thomas Mancino, adjutant general for the Oklahoma National Guard, as we visited with members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and their staff about the important role Oklahoma plays in our national defense.
Oklahoma’s military installations include Altus Air Force Base; Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City; Vance Air Force Base in Enid; Fort Sill Army Base in Lawton; McAlester Army Ammunition Plant; and the United States Coast Guard Container Inspection Training and the Coast Guard Institute in Oklahoma City. While we’ve worked diligently through the years to adopt state laws supporting our active military members and their families, as well as our veterans, it’s also imperative to work closely with our U.S. congressional members who vote on critical military funding measures at the federal level. Not only are these facilities vital to our national defense, they’re also paramount to job creation and economic development in our state – they’re major employers and economic engines.
We also discussed the importance of the Thunderbird Academy, in Pryor, home of the Thunderbird Challenge Program, which was founded in 1993 as part of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program. This is a 22-week, tuition-free military program for Oklahoma students who need guidance to set them on a path toward a brighter future. Utilizing the structure and discipline of the military, students attend high school classes, GED classes, and even college classes in addition to learning job skills and life coping skills.
We visited with our congressional delegation about the importance of the Thunderbird Academy and the benefits of expanding their offerings in order to assist even more Oklahoma youth. Thunderbird is one of our country’s premier institutions with one of the greatest success rates.
This past week, I was back in meetings at the Capitol, including one with officials of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES). Insurance was the topic of our latest discussion. Health coverage for our state employees and those of our schools continue to become more expensive, as does the property insurance for Oklahoma’s state-owned buildings and other facilities.
Health insurance is a crucial benefit as we seek to attract and keep outstanding employees in our state agencies and educational institutions. We must also protect the billions of dollars in public assets that house those entities serving our citizens, even in the face of rising premiums – something most Oklahomans are very familiar with as they manage their own household and business budgets. These are complex economic issues, but we continue to work diligently to address those important needs while meeting our mandate of a balanced budget.
More meetings related to the budget will continue to take place over the coming months, as well as interim studies to give us greater insight into policy issues impacting our state, as we continue our preparations for the 2024 legislative session.
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.